Māori teacher in Japan out of work due to coronavirus school closures

By Jessica Tyson

Pokere Paewai is one of many teachers in Japan out of mahi after schools have closed across the country in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

It is estimated that more than 13 million students are out of school across the country. So far six deaths have occurred and 300 cases of the virus found in Japan.

Paewai, of Rangitāne, has been working in Japan as an English teacher since August 2018.

The 24-year-old is currently working at an elementary school in Rukunohe, a town located in Aomori Prefecture. Due to his school's closure, he has been left with minimal work to do.

Paewai says the arrival of the coronavirus has been an alarming experience and there has been a major decrease in the number of tourists visiting the larger cities.

“The decrease in visitors from China is one of the reasons I’ve seen," he says.

He says some events and organisations have closed doors in his town, including his gym. Supermarket supplies have also been scarce.

Olympic Games 

A major concern is the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo from July. More than 10,000 athletes are expected to travel to Tokyo for the event.

The head of the International Olympic Committee, President Thomas Bach says the committee remains fully committed to the success of the Games.

“There has been a task force in place since mid-February and following the regular information from this taskforce, which consists of the IOC, the Organising Committee, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and in particular the World Health Organisation (WHO), we remain very confident with regards to the success of these Olympic Games Tokyo 2020,” Bach says.

Paewai says he hopes the Games go ahead because he bought tickets to watch some of the events.

“So I hope they don’t cancel the games,” he says.

He also hopes to return to teaching the students again soon.

“I enjoy teaching the students. They are very beautiful and cute. I’d also like to teach them my Māori culture in the classroom.”

With a change in the season this month and the end of the flu season, he hopes the number of cases will also decrease.

Students will be on school holidays from the end of March and it is hoped that they will afterwards return to school.