In August 2009, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (head office: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, President: Masami Iijima) is launching a new Scholarship Program for Brazilian Pupils Residing in Japan, as part of Mitsui's ongoing efforts since 2005 involving educational support programs for Brazilian pupils residing in Japan that are designed to help address educational challenges faced by members of Japan's Brazilian community. The new program, which aims to create educational opportunities for Brazilian pupils in Japan, marks a shift from support implemented until last year targeting school facilities, materials, and learning aids provided to Brazilian schools in Japan.
Before the economic downturn, roughly one-third of the 30,000 Brazilian school-aged nationals between 5 and 14 years old residing in Japan are said to have attended special Brazilian schools. Since September 2008, however, Brazilian nationals in Japan have found themselves faced with a worsening employment climate, leaving students in families hit by unemployment unable to afford high tuition fees. Facing financial difficulties, these students have increasingly been forced to leave Brazilian schools which in turn has sparked significant declines in student numbers leading to closure of some Brazilian schools. Some students have returned to Brazil, while others have transfered to Japanese public schools, many of whom, grappling with a lack of Japanese language skills and other such challenges in the Japanese schools, are now facing hurdles in adapting to their new environments and are increasingly refusing to attend school. In light of such circumstances, Mitsui has elected to shift its mode of support from providing physical items used in education to instead providing direct tuition assistance to pupils-assistance deemed as better tailored to community needs-so that students of Brazilian schools in Japan may continue to attend their current schools.
Scholarships for Brazilian children in Japan of 20,000 yen per person provided to a total of 100 pupils on a monthly basis are to be disbursed through Brazilian schools in Japan to cover the cost of tuition for students in need of support. The task of facilitating scholarship payments has been entrusted to Action for a Better International Community (ABIC)-an NPO established by the Japan Foreign Trade Council, Inc. (JFTC) which itself has thus far been working with Mitsui on programs that provide educational support for Brazilian children in Japan, activities of ABIC include reviewing attendance records and grade performance of students receiving financial assistance. The schools themselves are also being asked to submit student assessments and to facilitate the program through other such means. Schools slated to receive the funds, such as Coégio Pitágoras Brasil and Escola Alegria de Saber, were selected based on recommendations made by an advisory committee made up of leaders of the Brazilian community in Japan from bodies such as the Embassy of Brazil in Japan, and the Chamber of Commerce of Brazil in Japan (CCBJ).
Mitsui has long been involved in a wide range of business dealings with Brazil, and as such we realize the importance of addressing the challenges at hand in order to further deepen the partnership shared between Japan and Brazil. Clearly, the educational challenges facing children of Japan's Brazilian community cannot possibly be resolved by one company acting on its own. However, we believe that by helping to create momentum that spreads throughout society, and by gaining the participation of other companies in the scholarship program, our initiatives toward meeting the educational needs of the Brazilian community can make a difference.
1. Current and past Mitsui initiatives to support for the education of Brazilian children living in Japan
- Support for Brazilian schools in Japan
Between 2005 and 2008, Mitsui worked to improve the educational environment of Brazilian schools in Japan through contributions of physical items that facilitate education to 30 such schools designated by a selection committee of Brazilian experts in Japan.
- Support for activities of NPOs that work with the Brazilian community in Japan
Mitsui provides support to Tokyo-based NPOs that is continuing to assist the Brazilian community in Japan to address such issues as truancy by offering advice, counseling and other services via telephone, and also lends support in the Homi Danchi public housing development.
- Creating supplementary learning materials for Brazilian children living in Japan (Collaboration with Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)
Mitsui is taking part in a joint project coordinated by Tokyo University of Foreign Studies that brings together industry and academia to develop effective supplementary learning materials for Brazilian children living in Japan attending Japanese public schools. The materials, designed to help Brazilian students learn the Japanese language and study other school subjects, have been available to the public since April 2007 via the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies website.
2. Recent initiatives
In addition to the initiatives mentioned in the foregoing section, Mitsui has taken following activities to support the Brazilian community in Japan.
- Assistance with correspondence courses to train educators to teach in Brazilian schools in Japan
With the aim of improving the educational environment available to Brazilian children, fully-subsidized correspondence courses spanning four years are being provided to 300 educators who speak Portuguese, enabling them to acquire teaching qualifications that are recognized by the Federative Republic of Brazil. Participants in this program include teachers employed by Brazilian schools in Gunma, Aichi, Shizuoka and other prefectures, and teaching assistants assigned to local public entities.
The program is supported on the Brazil side by the country's Ministry of Education, the Federal University of Mato Grosso, and the Bank of Brazil, and on the Japan side by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Tokai University, and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. The four-year program which began July 2009 provides fully-subsidized correspondence courses to mainly Portuguese-speaking faculty employed by Brazilian schools in Japan, enabling them to acquire teaching qualifications at the pre-school to fourth grade level recognized by the Federative Republic of Brazil. We expect this program to help raise the level of education provided by Brazilian schools throughout Japan. Therefore, to help achieve these higher standards we are providing support to cover expenses involved in the preparation and implementation of lectures pertaining to the Japanese language and society.
- Short-term employment in Mitsui forests
Mitsui offers Brazilian residents of Japan temporary employment opportunities involving management of forest resources in company-owned forests located in Sando, Mie Prefecture. This year Mitsui plans to offer these short-term positions to 120 to 130 people.
- Support for programs to provide accurate sexual information for Brazilian children
In cooperation with NPOs, Mitsui covers translation expenses to create Portuguese versions of a booklet that enable Japan's Brazilian community access to accurate sexual information. We aim to make such information more widely available by offering translated versions of a booklet written by a gynecologist from Toranomon Hospital and providing access to the material via NPO websites and other means.
- Initiatives involving Brazil itself
The Mitsui Bussan do Brazil Foundation established in February 2008 promotes the following two projects
(1) The Kaeru Project
Administered jointly by the Instituto de Solidariedade Educacional e Cultural (Institute for Educational and Cultural Solidarity, ISEC), a non-profit organization, and the Department of Education for the State of São Paulohe, the Kaeru Project offers support for initiatives that enable children who return to Brazil from Japan to smoothly adjust to Brazilian schools and society. Services provided through the project include psychological support such as reading assistance and counseling, scholastic support such as through supplemental and special learning opportunities, and environmental support such as orientation sessions for parents, school administrators, and teachers.
(2) Endowment course at the University of São Paulo
This course, created within the Institute of International Law and International Relations at the São Paulo Law School, is offered once or twice a year mainly students of the university to deepen their understanding of Japan in terms of the society, culture, and other aspects of the country. The course aims to enable participants to contribute to better relations and provide more opportunities for exchanges between people of the two countries.
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