Seniors’ group in Japan offers scholarships to local high school students

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Azusa Otsuka, president of a senior citizens’ club federation in Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, shows a poster about the scholarship program in the city on July 1, 2022. (Mainichi/Keiichi Sugiyama)

ISAHAYA, Nagasaki — A group of seniors in this southwestern Japanese city have launched a scholarship program for students to enroll in local high schools, and recipients will be expected to help the group at events for three years in return.

In the program named “Jii-Baa Bokin”, which literally means “grandfather-grandmother donations”, the group will start awarding 150,000 yen (about $1,100) in scholarships to students during the academic year. 2023. An official from the Educational Environment Improvement Division of the Nagasaki Prefectural Government commented, “We have never heard of any old people’s club running a scholarship program in the prefecture.

The group’s chairman, Azusa Otsuka, came up with the idea because he thought, “We older people should be proud to contribute to local communities,” he said. Behind this initiative is Otsuka’s experience of losing his father, who was a doctor, on a battlefield during World War II, and graduating from a university in Tokyo through to a scholarship. It took Otsuka and others six years to create the fund by removing obstacles such as taxation of donations collected.

Children eligible to apply for the scholarships are third-year students from local high schools who contribute to their local communities — helping with festivals and other traditional events in the area, cleaning up parks and visiting social welfare facilities — – and enroll in full-time high schools in the towns of Isahaya or nearby Omura. Five students will be selected in each academic year to receive the scholarships to prepare for enrolment. In return, recipients will be required to volunteer at events organized by senior citizens’ clubs, among other duties, for three years while in high school.

The group has already raised about 4 million yen (about $29,200) from businesses and club members in Isahaya. He apparently received several inquiries after distributing application information in May to colleges in the city.

Otsuka said, “We would like to promote intergenerational interaction through the scholarship program. We hope this will help seniors to motivate themselves in life and high school students to find places that belong to them other than those related to studies.”

(Japanese original by Keiichi Sugiyama, Isahaya Resident Bureau)

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