Former Nova teachers struggling to get by

Jessica Crichton, 23, and Hilary Keyes, 24, former teachers of failed language school chain Nova Corp., sat on the floor of their shared apartment in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, eating bowls of instant ramen–their first and only meal of the day.

“I can’t tell my mom in Canada about this situation,” Crichton said with tears in her eyes. After all, she came to Japan, she said, because she loves the country and its people.

About 4,000 teachers lost their jobs after Osaka-based Nova filed for court protection from creditors under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law on Oct. 26. The two were told on Oct. 11. to leave the apartment the firm rented for them. They moved to their new place on Oct. 20.

“Many former Nova teachers are being driven out of their apartments and are living in dire conditions,” an official of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo South Chapter said.

Nova teachers usually lived together in groups of two or three in shared apartments rented by the firm. Osaka resident Nik Shepherd, who came to Japan a year and half ago, is one of them. He lived together with two colleagues. Monthly rent of 53,000 yen was withheld from the salary of each. Currently, although the firm has failed to pay the rent, the landlord has been kind enough to allow the tenants to stay in the apartment.

“We’ve stopped eating out. We can cook at home for 200 yen per meal,” 26-year-old Shepherd said. He lives on his meager earnings from private English lessons.

“I was disappointed with [former Nova President Nozomu] Sahashi, but I love Japan,” Crichton said. She said she sometimes gets absorbed reading “Ugetsu Monogatari,” an anthology of 18th century ghost stories that one of her students introduced her to. Shepherd said he was eager to learn more about Japanese culture, such as ukiyo-e woodblock art.

Although the takeover of part of the Nova’s operations by a Nagoya-based firm has been decided, the future still looks cloudy for the former Nova teachers.


Students sore over tuition fees

Many Nova students expressed resentment Tuesday upon learning their tuition fees will not likely be returned after G.communication Group, a Nagoya-based language school chain operator, takes over some of the failed language school chain’s branches.

G.communication announced Tuesday it would not assume an obligation to return tuition fees paid by about 300,000 students to Nova.

During a press conference Tuesday night, Nova’s court-appointed administrators Toshiaki Higashibata and Noriaki Takahashi, who are lawyers, announced that G.communication was selected to take over part of Nova’s operations.

“The decision [taken by G.communication] will highly protect employees and students. I had the impression that the company was very generous,” Takahashi said.

G.communication will resume operation of 30 Nova schools at an early date. As for operations at about 640 remaining schools, the administrators are in the process of selecting schools to reopen, but could not say when they would make an announcement on the matter.

Meanwhile, G.communication President Takashi Ono said during the press conference that the school would accept all Nova employees who wish to work.

The company said it plans to do its best to support Nova students.

Tuesday’s announcement on the tuition fees had an impact on Nova’s students.

An 18-year-old college student who went to Nova’s Kichijoji school in Musashino, Tokyo, said she paid 900,000 yen in advance to Nova about two years ago, and that about 200,000 yen remained unused for lessons.

“I wonder whether I can take lessons or not if I pay additional tuition fees. I can’t believe [what] an English language school [says] anymore,” she said.

A 32-year-old female boutique employee said she attended the Meguro school in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, for 12 years. When she heard only 30 schools would be reopened for the time being, she hardened her face and said, “What will happen to the [Meguro] school? If the schools [to be resumed] are located far from my house, it will be hard to continue studying while working.”

A female company employee, 66, who attended the Ochanomizu school in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, said her advance payment of 315,000 yen for lessons remained unused.