Kelas Yang Kosong

By Osamu Kanazawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Photographer

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A half-empty classroom in Colegio Sant’ana in Aishocho, Shiga Prefecture, is an indication of the dire economic situation. The number of students has plunged since the end of last year.

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Marcos Antonio Bortolossi, right, and his son, Anderson, ride back to their apartment from the public job placement office in Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture.

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Brazilian families gather in a small apartment for a prayer service every weekend in Azuchicho, Shiga Prefecture.

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Unable to go to school, Gledson Amauri Candido spends the days watching TV or playing TV games at his home in Konan, Shiga Prefecture.

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19th World Karate Championships

//–>The Brazilian boy spends all day watching TV or playing TV games. He seldom goes outside.

“I can’t meet my friends, and I miss them. I’m starting to forget their voices,” said Gledson Amauri Candido, 12, of Konan, Shiga Prefecture.

He attended a school for Brazilian students for 18 months, but has not been able to go to school since the end of last year because his father, Jesus, 58, who was a temporary worker at a manufacturing plant, lost his job, leaving him unable to pay the 45,000 yen monthly tuition for his son.

“I can’t do anything without money. I want my son to attend a Japanese school, but we can’t understand the Japanese language,” the father said.

Due to the current economic crisis, many Brazilians working in Japan have lost their jobs.

Consequently, an increasing number of Brazilian children cannot attend schools catering to South American children as their families are unable to afford the tuition.

According to the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, about 90 of these schools had a total enrollment of about 7,400 students a year ago. But at many of these schools, the number of students has decreased by half.

Some schools are teetering on the brink of closure, a ministry official said.

In Shiga Prefecture, where about 14,000 Brazilians live, there are four schools for Brazilian students. But these schools have seen students leave one after another.

There were about 80 students in Colegio Sant’ana in Aishocho in August, but there are about 50 now.

“It hits the children harder than anyone. When I see the children looking happy, I think that I must do everything in my power to keep the school open,” school Principal Kenko Nakata said.

Local governments and residents have taken it upon themselves to help such children attend school.

After learning that Colegio Sant’ana faced a financial crisis, people living in the vicinity of the school collected money to buy gasoline for the school bus so that children living in out-of-the-way places could go to school.

In Nagomi, a school teaching the Japanese language operated by the Nagahama Municipal Board of Education, there were no students at one time, but there are 13 now.

The school’s staff and volunteers teach Japanese to students in the hope that they will be able to attend a Japanese school some day.

April marks the beginning of the new school term. It would be nice to see as many children smiling as possible.

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