FEATURE: Activities to help juvenile delinquents turn lives around spreading
FUKUOKA, March 24 KYODO
Parents struggling to deal with delinquent children are flocking to a nonprofit school in Tagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, in a desperate effort to help their offspring turn their lives around.
”I have to undergo a month of physical training if we fail to wash a bowl properly,” said a 13-year-old boy who entered the school recently. He made the statement with a touch of sarcasm but his eyes were brimming.
Former hot-rod leader Ryo Kudo, 31, opened the school, called Tagawa Fureaigijyuku (Tagawa personal-love school) or TFG, to help juvenile delinquents become independent by living communally.
The boy and four others are living together in a rented private house which serves as the school.
The toughest job at the school is cleaning. Kubo has an obsessive passion for cleanliness, saying, ”It’s worse for socks to be left abandoned than (inhaling) thinner.”
Since the school’s opening in March 2005, it has received numerous inquiries. The monthly total reached about 30 recently, twice as many over the year before.
The inquiries come mainly from families who have been unable to send children to high school due to financial difficulties, and such children are often liable to become delinquent.
Kudo, his wife and student volunteers often visit the school to see what the boys are doing. They also give advice about jobs.
”Even boys who have repeatedly committed thefts or inflicted injuries to others have amicable expressions. It’s important for them to lead an orderly life and have reliable adults around them,” Kudo said.
Eighteen-year-old Megumi Aoki, a ”graduate” of the school, said, ”At first, life here was tough for me because day and night were reversed due to my night life. But I have learned here how to be in contact with other people and I’m now thankful for my parents.” She now works and lives on her own.
According to the education ministry, the number of cases of student violence in and out of elementary, junior high and high schools came to more than 52,700 in the 2007 school year, to hit an all-time high.
In support of TFG, Naoki Nakano, a section chief at the Tagawa municipal government’s education board, said, ”Even if delinquent children refuse to go to school, there is no such institution as a free school.”
Last June, Shinji Hatakeyama, a former delinquent, opened the Tonda personal-love school in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, after being inspired by Kudo’s book. ”I wanted to do something,” he said.
The 24-year-old Hatakeyama is engaged in volunteer activities together with some 30 youths, hoping they will find something to devote themselves to, and is holding dance lessons at his home. In the future, he hopes to live with them under one roof.
While watching a TV program about temporary workers being fired and losing places to live, Kudo said, ”Children need a place where they can feel at home with adults.”