Nova students, teachers up in arms

Students and instructors voiced anger Friday over Nova Corp.’s decision the same day to temporarily close all of its schools across the country.

Students are concerned about what will happen to their lessons and the fees they paid up front, and employees have criticized deposed President Nozomu Sahashi, saying he was “not qualified to run a company.”

Osaka-based Nova, which also filed for bankruptcy protection under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law on Friday, had previously been forced to close a succession of schools due to such factors as a worsening of its financial position and delays in paying instructors’ wages since the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry ordered the firm to partially suspend operations in June.

According to a Nova employee, the company’s Tokyo headquarters sent e-mails or called every school ordering them not to open just after 9 a.m., with staff being told to stand by at home.

Foreign instructors and students arriving for morning lessons at the sixth floor of a building in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo–Nova’s main school in the area–found the lights were off. The lights had still not been turned on at 10 a.m., the time of the day’s first lessons.

“I paid 600,000 yen in advance for three years of lessons, and I still have two years to go,” a 35-year-old male student at the school from Nakano Ward, Tokyo, said.

A 31-year-old female student at Nova’s main school in Ginza said: “Even though I booked a lesson for the afternoon, no one told me anything. The school’s staff kept saying things would be fine, but they haven’t given a thought to us students.”

Foreign instructors and Japanese staff, most of whom have kept working despite having not received salaries since the end of September, spoke of their disappointment at a situation they felt would arise.

“It’ll be hard for me to find another job teaching French if the school is shut down,” a 39-year-old female instructor at the Ginza school said. “Nova could make a bit more of an effort.”

“I thought it might be hard to keep the classes going, but what will happen to my salary?” a 21-year-old female employee at different school in Tokyo said. “I’m anxious about how I’m going to live.”

A Nova employee handed out documents detailing matters such as the announcement of Sahashi’s dismissal to the press, which had packed into Nova’s Tokyo headquarters, located on the 23rd floor of a skyscraper in Nishi-Shinjuku, just after 9 a.m. She insisted she did not know anything more.

“Sahashi never said how he planned to rebuild the company, and honestly speaking, he isn’t qualified to be president,” a male employee said. “We’ve not only lost a lot of students, but also many employees.”


Help lines for foreign teachers

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry opened consultation services for foreign instructors through the Tokyo and Osaka labor bureaus Friday to deal with the increased number of inquiries regarding matters such as unpaid salaries.

Hello Work job-placement offices in eight prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, had received 563 inquiries from foreign instructors as of Wednesday.

Consultations regarding nonpayment of wages and unemployment insurance, for which different departments are usually responsible, will both be available in the services. “Once we’ve got a clear picture of the situation [regarding the nonpayment of wages], we’ll take appropriate measures based on the law,” Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said at a press conference following a Cabinet meeting Friday.

Inquiries should be made to the Tokyo Labor Bureau’s Shinjuku Employment Assistance and Instruction Center for Foreigners on (03) 3204-8609, or the Osaka Labor Bureau’s Osaka Employment Service Center for Foreigners on (06) 6344-1135.