Government’s finding from Japan not satisfactory and not accurate: Parents’ Committee

As the government delegation returns from a eleven-day visit to Japan with the set of observations and findings on the situation of the students in Japan, the study although specified conclusive by the government is marked as substandard by the parent’s representatives and the committee lawyer.

The seven-member delegation team included members of the ruling and opposition parties which was led by the labour minister himself.

The government in its press release stated that “The visit was aimed at assessing situation of students placed through LEP and also exploring opportunities under Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) as well as Specified Skilled workers (SSW) visa scheme for the Bhutanese’’, further stating that during the course of the visit, the delegation met with officials of the Government of Japan and Office of the Technical Intern Training Program.

The labour minister said there aren’t any specific findings beyond what is stated in the press release. He added that, “This general finding may not appeal to individuals as  it would take months if the specific finding on each and every youth are to be found and it would be complex to verify each and every situation as it will only add confusion.”

The opposition member, Ugyen Dorji said there are no different views or findings from that of government that can be made. “We went together and as a team, so it is not possible to come out with different finding and observation,” he added.

Meetings were also held with the Honorary Consul General and Honorary Consuls of Bhutan in Japan. A nine-page report was presented to Prime Minister, Speaker of NationalAssembly, Chairman of National Council and the Opposition Leader.

The delegation was also able to explore opportunities and options under Technical Intern training Program (TITP) and Specified Skilled Workers (SSW) visa scheme for Bhutanese.

Government’s observations and findings

The delegation which met with 144 Bhutanese students placed through the ‘learn and earn program’ came out with the finding that it seemed evident that the agent and students had contradicting ideas particularly on the utilization of loan amount and payment of initial tuition fees, and dormitory charges.

On the students status, the findings says 72 students are employed, while 79 students are looking for job, 229 students are currently studying and 127 students have joined vocational colleges.

While 226 students have returned to Bhutan, 18 students are expected to return to Bhutan by May. The status of 13 students is not confirmed yet.

The delegation team also met with the management of seven language institutes and discussed issues related to the program. “On our part, we never stopped according time and importance to the matter since the day it came to our notice”.

While the finding said that it is true that fundamental problem of meeting expenses, which include tuition fees and loan repayment, while having to learn and work exists, it was also found that some of those students placed by BEO, are also doing well and have managed to secure fulltime employment.

“Repayment of loans, visa extension for those continuing language course and others joining vocational colleges, finding jobs and working visa are the pressing problems students submitted.”

The finding cited the example of students placed by BEO in the First Study Japanese Language School in Osaka where majority are said to have found employment on completion of language course. “31 students were enrolled in the school of which 20 of them got full time employment and 6 are enrolled in vocational colleges. Overall, 71 of the students who are employed went through BEO”.

The finding stated that most students are interested and willing to stay back in Japan to continue their studies or find a fulltime work.

Another observation made by the team said that the Japanese Government placed emphasis on Specified Skilled Workers (SSW) visa scheme which was introduced in April 2019. “The government also encouraged Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) that can engage graduates of LEP in Japan”.

The earlier team from the labour ministry and bank met with 219 students, of which only 51 students have applied for loan deferment scheme.

The delegation also made an observation that the students placed through another agent Bhutan Overseas Jinzai (BOJ), are doing well and have not reported major problems. “With a small number of students enrolled in one school, proper monitoring of the progress of students is being carried out”.

The delegation was also able to explore opportunities and options under Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) and Specified Skilled Workers (SSW) visa scheme for Bhutanese.

Rebuttal on the findings

The parent’s representative and committee lawyer Ngawang Tobgay said the findings from the government was highly expected to be comprehensive considering it was a high level delegation.

He said it rather provided a report that was unsatisfactory, brief and few issues were invalid.

“It’s appreciable that the government is really putting its effort in solving the matter,” however he added the findings overall is trying to say that the students are doing well and the agent has tried its best which is not true. “When nothing is mentioned against the agent which is the cause of this issue something is not right with the government’s findings.”

Ngawang pointed out the government’s finding on the employment status of students in the Japanese Language School in Osaka. He said, “This school seems to have the best of employment and status because during our visit, we got to know that the school didn’t allow the agent to interfere much.”

“Had the agent been allowed to interfere, the issue faced by majority where the agent colluded would have been replicated due to all these commission games.” He added that in reality, the job is provided by the school and not by the agent.

“Another question rings on the statement made by the labour minister that 80 students have got fulltime job during live interview last time, now the findings says only 20, where is the rest 60?”.  Ngawang added no validation has been made on whether the students really are happy or willing to stay in Japan to cover the loan and employment burden.

Ngawang said no mention has been made on some crucial findings of parent’s representative on the non-existence of the BEO’s partnering agent SND in Japan and the commission taken by the agent from school and workplace. “Since the delegation visited several schools and our finding was made known before,  this fact can’t go unknown”. “We longed to hear the findings on the contract breach by the agent”

He said there is also no mention on the mental and health condition of the youths in Japan.

However, he said as per the statement made by the delegation MPs during the live telecast interview, the death and sickness in Japan is not blamed on the agent. “Proper research is not done on that part,” said the lawyer.

He said if the cause of death is not due to agent, the parents’ committee has the voice recording of the boy who committed suicide last December who appraised about the whole situation in a social media group of parent and students before committing suicide. “He told how he is in destitute situation and how his problems are not taken seriously”. Ngawang said a similar situation applies to the majority.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the government delegation’s visit to Japan was made on the assurance of support in addressing the issues by the Japanese government and relevant authorities.

“In this view, we understand that the Japanese government is dealing with thousands of students from different countries and it would be too much to expect any preferential treatment”.

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