Ten Japanese Schools Join Friendship School Program [2008/06/09]
Higashidate Elementary School Principal Shishido (right) and AEFA Secretary-General Endo
With the support of the Nippon Foundation, the Japan-based Asian Education and Friendship Association (AEFA), builds schools for minority communities living in Asia's remote mountain regions. AEFA also encourages the newly constructed schools to sign friendship agreements with Japanese schools in order to foster international exchange. This fiscal year, 10 Japanese schools will join the sister school program. One of these was Higashidate Elementary School in Fukushima Prefecture. Higashidate will be the first school from Fukushima to participate. Masayoshi Endo, Secretary-General of AEFA, visited the school to sign the agreement, and introduced its new sister school--Natur Elementary School in Salavan Province, Laos--in a lecture to the students. (Photo: Higashidate Elementary School)
Higashidate Elementary School serves the town of Yamatsuri, located at the southern end of Fukushima Prefecture. The town has a population of about 6,548 and is famous for its progressive policies. Specifically, in recent years, it has resisted the national policy by refusing to merge with other municipalities, refusing to join the national resident registry network, and paying its town councilors a per diem. It has also built the Mottainai Library, which houses about 435,000 books donated by people all over Japan. Higashidate Elementary School was founded in 1873.(Photo: The activities of AEFA explained in the principal's office)
Regarding the new friendship agreement with Natur Elementary School, Higashidate Elementary School Principal Shishido stated, “There are many disadvantaged countries in Southeast Asia. I believe that learning about the actual situation in these countries will encourage our children to create new hopes and dreams for the future.” The school plans to send its students' essays and artwork to Natur Elementary School and to introduce an environmental study of the Kuji River, carried out by its fourth-graders. (Photo: Secretary-General Endo Speaking to the Children)
Natur Elementary School' s classes are currently conducted in a crude hut. By the end of the year, however, a new building consisting of three classrooms, a community space, a toilet, and a well will have been built through AEFA. In his lecture, Secretary-General Endo introduced Salavan Province in Laos and the children of Natur Elementary School, promising, “We will build a new school by Christmas and deliver your letters and pictures to the kids there.”(Photo: The current Natur Elementary School)
According to AEFA, 38 schools have been constructed to date, as part of a project that started in 2005. About 40 Japanese schools have signed friendship agreements. This year, AEFA plans to build 15 schools: 10 in Vietnam, 4 in Laos, and 1 in Thailand. In Japan, 10 new schools, including Higashidate Elementary School will become sister schools.