300,000 people sign petition calling for public scholarship to continue

In opposition to the Koizumi Cabinet's plan to abolish state-sponsored scholarship programs, more than 300,000 people throughout Japan have signed a petition calling for the maintenance and improvement of public scholarships.

The Japan Scholarship Foundation runs state-sponsored scholarship programs which have been used by 6.2 million students since 1943. Currently, 800,000 students are granted scholarships.

The joint struggle organization consisting of students, teachers, school workers, and trade unions has carried out a signature collection campaign since last December.

Several hundred envelops containing signatures are sent to the office of the Japan Scholarship Foundation workers' union every day. Phone calls and e-mails encouraging their signature collection campaign are numerous.

At a prefectural high school in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, the teachers' meeting decided to call on all students, teachers, and staff members to collect signatures.

In Shiroi City of Chiba Prefecture, the City Assembly last December adopted a statement with majority votes, calling for the maintenance of the Japan Scholarship Foundation and improvements in scholarship programs. The statement was jointly proposed by the Japanese Communist Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, and independent assembly members.

Under the Koizumi "reform" plan, the number of students who are granted interest-free scholarships will be decreased, exemptions for graduate students from repayment of scholarships will be abolished, and scholarships with interest will be integrated into loans of the National Life Finance Corporation.

A student whose parents are low-income wage earners won't be able to borrow the Corporation's loan on the grounds that they lack the ability to repay the money. Those students who need scholarship most won't get the money, if the "reform" is carried out. (end)