By Rumi Naruse
A junior high school boy practicing kanji and a part-time woman teaching the boy. An old man with gray hair looks at the situation gently. The old man just watches the situation and doesn’t try to enter the conversation willingly. Just watching from a little distance.
The kanji that the boy is practicing are not junior high school level kanji. These are elementary school level kanji. However, the boy solves the problems, checking the meaning one by one. When the problem was solved, the boy said in a loud voice, “Got it” Just in a loud voice. When the old man sees this, looks happy.
The gray-haired old man’s name is Minoru Yamashita. This person is a representative of Asakura Night School, which supports many people who have a strong desire to learn. The school provides a safe place to learn for children who are no longer able to go to day school due to non-attender, poverty, or disabilities. All ages are welcome if students are willing to learn.
Asakura Night School is opened from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., five days a week. Students can come at any time and study what one wants to learn. Students can study on one’ own or with part-time workers who support the learning process. And the biggest advantage of this school is that if students come to this school, it will be added to attendance credits of the day school. The school is set up in such a way that students can fulfill attendance requirements without having to go to day school, which can lead to higher education later.
“Asakura Night School is a safe place for us to study,” the two students said.
These girls are currently in the sixth grade and do not attend daytime school. So-called non-attending school children.
“We are often at odds with our parents’ opinion that we should go to day school,” said a girl in a light blue outfit. And after that, “We can’t go even if we wanted to. We don’t have a place at school or at home,” said the other girl in black outfit.
“Place” is a very important word for non-attending students. The number of non-attending students in Kochi Prefecture is among the highest in Japan. In 2020, the number of non-attending students per 1,000 students in elementary and junior high schools is also the highest in Japan.
“Many students stop going to school because of bullying, but also there are many children who stop going to school because of family environment,” said Mr. Yamashita. Kochi Prefecture also has the highest divorce rate in Japan. Therefore, it takes a lot of effort and money to raise a child with only one parent. Many of the parents of the children who come to this school are also single parents. In addition, there are many families that require public assistance due to poverty. A combination of various factors, including family environment and poverty, causes many children to stop attending school.
This school offers the joy of learning to students who are unable to attend school due to family environment or poverty. The school does not collect any money from the students. All fees for teaching materials, operation, and facilities are paid by Kochi City. Therefore, students and parents do not have to worry about any money. Why is this school able to operate without receiving any money from the students? It is because the school is a public-private system. In this system, all expenses are paid by the local government, and the private sector is responsible for teaching the students.
The main reason for adopting this system is, “Naturally, students and parents don’t have to worry about money, but I also want to eliminate the vertical relationship between teachers and students,” said Mr. Yamashita. And “The teacher-student relationship, in other words, means the one who teaches and the one who is taught, this naturally leads to a vertical relationship, Vertical relationships are not necessary for learning” Mr. Yamashita said. It is important for both parties to learn from the same standpoint and grow together.
“My goal is for there to be no more night schools in this world,” Mr. Yamashita said with a smile. When there will be no more night schools, there will be no more non attending students, and everyone will be able to continue their studies in peace. Until that time, Mr. Yamashita will continue activities.
Two non-attending children in the sixth grade. These girls will soon graduate from elementary school and go on to junior high school.
“We’re studying to go to a daytime middle school,” the two said with a smile.
There was a strong will in their eyes.