Shiga region tries to keep school for Brazilians afloat during pandemic


AISHO, Shiga Prefecture–Residents here have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help a school affected by COVID-19 that was created as a lifeline for Brazilian children struggling to adapt to life in the Japan.

About 80 children from Shiga Prefecture of all ages up to 18 now attend Colegio Santana in Ashio.

The school is not covered by the Japanese government’s grant program for public schools, so its operations are funded primarily through tuition fees.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many problems at the school.

Many parents of students work as temporary employees sent by recruitment agencies to manufacturing plants. Many have seen their working hours reduced during the novel coronavirus crisis.

And in January this year, a cluster infection at Colegio Santana led to a two-week suspension of classes. Tutors in close contact with infected students were unable to come to their workplaces for some time.

Under these circumstances, tuition payments have been late, making it difficult for the school to continue operating.

Colegio Santana was founded in 1998 by Kenko Nakata, now 65, from Brazil and currently the school’s principal.

Nakata opened the school after learning that local Brazilian children were not enrolling in Japanese schools.

“Many students have come here after being troubled by the language barrier and bullying in public schools,” Nakata said.

Classes at Colegio Santana are taught in Portuguese in prefabricated accommodation or private homes.

Local residents started a non-profit organization named after the school five years ago to help them.

The NPO distributes a bulletin on the Colegio Santana and organizes exhibitions to present the works of the students.

Children also grow vegetables in an agricultural field donated by a member of the group for school meals.

On June 1, the group launched a two-month crowdfunding campaign to cover school operating expenses in (https://camp-fire.jp/projects/view/578447).

“We would like broad cooperation to be extended to protect this important place for children,” said Yasuyo Yanagida, 45, a representative of the NPO’s secretariat.

An exhibition organized by the non-profit organization Colegio Santana shows children’s paintings in Aisho, Shiga Prefecture, in September 2020. (Taro Tamaki)

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