A Japanese language school has been caught on an audio recording admitting to paying a huge commission for each Bhutanese student to the SND agency, which is the Japanese partner agency of Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO).
The exchange was recorded by the Japanese social worker, Yumiko Kan, when she met the owner of the Makuhari Language School.
The owner of the Japanese language school, confessed to paying millions as a commission to SND for sending Bhutanese students to he school.
The school owner, during the exchange, mentioned that at least 140,000 Japanese yen was paid as a commission to the agency for each Bhutanese student. “Some schools paid 150,000 yen as a commission for each student but it depends on the school.”
Yumiko Kan, in an interview over the phone with the reporter, said the conversation was recorded while she went to confront the school management for withholding the passport of one of the Bhutanese students who had failed to pay tuition fees.
“She told me that a similar practice of taking away the passport could be happening in other schools as well –which is illegal and is often done by human traffickers,” said Yumiko. She said the conversation was recorded without the knowledge of the school owner for her own defense.
She said since millions were paid in commission to the agent, this could be the reason the Japanese schools are charging high language fees and overtaxing the Bhutanese students apart from the exorbitant fees charged in Bhutan.
The owner of Makuhari Japanese Language School was also heard expressing her disgruntlement over BEO’s partnering agency, the SND for failing to take proper care of the Bhutanese students in Japan despite taking millions in commission from Language schools and their work stations.
“I would like to get back the commission paid to SND. I’m also a victim,” said the school owner in the recording. The school owner is said to have paid over 7 mn Yen as commission to SND.
The school owner also mentions that the agency must have earned tens of millions just as commission from the schools.
“It would have been nice if he took care of Bhutanese youths, but he did not do that at all” said the owner.
The school owner also admitted that the complaints came from many schools. “I wonder if the Japanese language school in Bhutan gets a commission as well. The SND owner, Mr. Endo failed to visit the school even when a bunch of students were suffering from tuberculosis.”
While Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) couldn’t be reached for comments on the matter, an ACC official during the an earlier interview, said that the ACC due to lack of budget failed to send its officials to investigate outside the country.
Yumiko alleged that the program was a scam right from the beginning. She said she got to know about the program when she visited Bhutan in 2017 for a project and came across students studying the Japanese language to go to Japan.
She was told that they would be offered a master’s degree along with two jobs and a green-card in Japan. “There isn’t any chance of it being possible to obtain such a deal in Japan and, moreover, doing two jobs is illegal so I told them not to go, but they said this wouldn’t be a problem since the program is looked after by the labour ministry.”
In early 2018, Yumiko met the same group of students in Japan. She said it was no surprise that the students were suffering then. “They were overcharged by the schools, most of them were struggling to find a job, and the living condition was pathetic and people were having difficulties in meeting the expenses after having to pay the loan,” Yumiko said.
Upon her inquiry with the students across 24 different language schools, she said the situation was no better where some were physically injured while some were mentally tormented.
During the visit of the then Prime Minister (PM) on 10th April 2018 in Japan, Yumiko tried to inform the PM on the issue. “During the meeting between hundreds of Bhutanese students and the PM, I started to share the issue to the PM which was interrupted by BEO’s Jurmey who started yelling at me.”
After the unsuccessful attempt, a letter of concern was presented to the labour official in the same evening. “I got no response or action from them despite me approaching various concerned agencies in Bhutan.”
A letter expressing concern, risk factors and suggestion was also sent to the Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering on 9th December 2018. The letter also presented a detailed report of various problems and incidents faced by the individual students across different regions in Japan.
The letter also expressed the concern that neither SND or BEO nor the language schools have any wish or system in place to offer required assistance to those Bhutanese students suffering from various mental health issues caused by all sorts of traumatizing psychological burden in a completely foreign land.
The letter suggested the need for an urgent call for Bhutanese medical practitioners and psychotherapists to be dispatched over to Japan.
Meanwhile, BEO refused to comment on the audio tape and the entire matter.