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Officials demand nurseries to register with prefecture

Date Posted: 2002-11-02

Okinawa Prefecture officials are waging a campaign of cracking down on nursery schools that are not registered - and inspected - by prefecture welfare officials. The crackdown is a result of several scandals and accidents that have been reported recently.

Okinawa has about 1,000 nurseries, but only about 400 of them are registered and supervised by the prefecture. The rest are more or less fly-by-night operations who operate on their own standards.

Now prefecture officials want to know details of their operations, like how many teachers they have, what’s the physical area their grounds occupy, how much they spend on meals per child, what kind of food they serve, what is their curriculum, and so on. The aim is to force all nurseries to abide by government set standards.

On their part, many unlicensed schools resist the officials’ demands. The biggest reason is money. The government-supervised schools have set fees that they charge that depend on the income of the child’s parents. Many of these schools attract children by offering lower fees than are available at accredited nurseries, but that also means that they cannot afford as many teachers or pay them as well. That often means smaller grounds, less nutritious lunches and other cost-cutting measures.

Prefecture officials have set Oct 31 deadline for nursery schools to register. The deadline is being enforced by the threat of a fine of ¥500,000 for those who fail to comply. But the prospects are not good.

At the moment, only 19 nurseries of a total of 120 in Naha City are registered. Urasoe has 58 of which 10 are accredited, and only three of 27 nurseries in Gusnikawa City are officially recognized.

In this respect Okinawa City shines. 57 of its 63 nursery schools are registered making it by far the best municipality to comply with regulations.

Although registering with the prefecture would bring the schools some subsidies, many parents, especially those with higher incomes are opposing, as the fees they have to pay would increase on average almost ¥10,000 per month.

Officials say that despite of such difficulties about 300 of the non-registered schools are expected to tender their applications by the deadline, and prefecture officials are prepared to conduct inspections in the order they left their applications. Those nurseries will also avoid any punishment although it may take some time after the deadline before the inspections are complete. The other 300 are supposedly prepared to take their chances.

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