By ATSUSHI TAKAHASHI/ Staff Writer
The beginning of the school year always finds classrooms full of the happy laughter and smiling faces of eager schoolchildren anxious for what lies ahead.
The smiles were even broader this April at Tokyo’s Everest International School Japan in Suginami Ward, where the long-cherished hopes of Nepalese citizens living in Japan finally came to fruition.
It was one of the first days of classes in the inaugural semester at EISJ, a school that teaches Nepalese culture and language for Nepalese children from preschool to primary levels of education.
Located near the JR Asagaya Station, EISJ currently has about 30 students enrolled. Named after the world’s highest mountain in Nepal, the school’s main language of study is English. It also teaches classes in Japanese.
According to the Embassy of Nepal in Japan, the number of Nepalese in Japan has sharply increased over the last decade or so.
In 2012, there were 20,383 Nepalese in Japan, a more than fivefold increase from the 3,649 in 2000.
Most of the Nepalese children previously attended Japanese elementary schools, but many found it difficult to keep up with classes, an embassy official said.
Around autumn 2011, former Nepalese students in Japan discussed the possibility of forming a school in Japan for Nepalese children.
Bhupal Man Shrestha, managing editor of the Nepali Samachar newspaper and chairman of the Nepal Education Center in Japan, which oversees the school, was a key organizer for the school.
Shrestha canvassed the views of 500 or so Nepalese parents with school age children. They gave overwhelming support for such a school.
“We had really felt the need for a school where children can learn the Nepalese language, history and culture at an affordable tuition,” Shrestha said in Japanese.
Shrestha got advice and support from other international school operators in Japan and quickly won pledges of funding from Nepalese business operators in Japan.
Opening April 1, Everest International School Japan is the first Nepalese school in Japan, according to the Embassy of Nepal.
“It is a place where children, who shoulder the future of Japan and Nepal, can get together,” said Pradip Thapa, 30, EISJ’s academic director. “I feel both excited and responsible.”