A fund set up by the Aichi Prefectural Government in March is providing financial aid to students from children’s homes seeking to enter higher education.
“I want to realize my dream and live up to the expectations (of my supporters),” said a 19-year-old Aichi student who entered a private university in April to major in sports studies. He aspires to become a physical education teacher and is one of 11 students the fund is backing this year.
The student, who was born in Mie Prefecture, said he had to live in a group foster home during his first four years of elementary school because he was abused by his father.
After his parents divorced, he lived with his mother and stepfather in the Owari region in Aichi, only to suffer more abuse from his stepfather. His mother, who didn’t try to protect him, instead ordered him to do chores and take care of his siblings.
In his first year of junior high school, he went to a child consultation center by himself to seek protection. This led to him finding foster parents the next year.
“I experienced something that I didn’t have to go through,” the student said. “At least I have no trouble doing housework, now that I’m living by myself.”
Thanks to his foster parents, his life changed for the better. They strongly encouraged him to get a college education and paid for his cram school fees.
“I didn’t like to study, so I resisted at first and argued with them,” he said, adding that his attitude gradually became positive as his scores improved.
He started thinking about becoming a teacher after another boy who joined his foster parents’ home told him he was good at teaching. “That was the first time I had a dream for the future,” he said.
After being rejected by a national university, he was about to give up on his dreams because of the high tuition charged by private universities. Then his foster parents told him about the Aichi fund and a scholarship. He applied for both and won.
“I’m fortunate. I can keep pursuing my dream thanks to many people,” he said.
The student now works as a part-time deliveryman four days a week to pay living expenses and participates in the college’s soccer club and band. Although his daily routine can be exhausting, he is enjoying life.
The student says he is not afraid to talk openly about his upbringing with his friends.
“By letting others know how I am doing now, I hope the prejudice against those raised in foster facilities will be reduced and children with similar experiences will think they can have dreams,” he said.
The fund was established after four anonymous residents donated a total of ¥10 million last year, asking that the money be used to help children from orphanages and foster homes who aspire to enter higher education.
In addition, the Aichi Prefectural Government later threw in ¥20 million gained from the sale of bequeathed properties and ¥8 million in donations solicited from 19 companies and individuals by the end of May.
In response to applications for the fund, the prefectural government offered as much as ¥250,000 to each foster child it backed this year so they can prepare for school, such as by buying new computers, or suits for the entrance ceremonies.
Starting with next year’s wave of high school graduates, the fund will be expanded to cover transportation costs for campus visits, entrance exam fees and moving expenses. The prefecture is expected to allocate roughly ¥15 million to the fund each year. These funds will also be used to support so-called children’s cafeterias — makeshift eateries for disadvantaged kids.
According to data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, only 30.9 percent of students brought up in group homes went on to college or other institutions of higher learning last year, compared with 73.8 percent of high school graduates nationwide.
As the issue of child poverty becomes increasingly recognized, more municipalities, incorporated foundations and universities have begun offering scholarships.
The website of the Tokyo-based National Council of Children’s Homes shows information on 114 support programs offered nationwide as of May 2018 for disadvantaged students seeking to go to school or land jobs.