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By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A standoff between the state Department of Education and the students occupying schools across the state does not have an end in sight yet. Students are protesting for better education conditions and support the teachers’ strike, which has lasted over fifty days, and to-date, 68 public schools are occupied by students across Rio de Janeiro.

Students occupy schools in Rio de Janeiro in protest, Brazil, Brazil News
Students occupy schools in Rio de Janeiro in protest against cuts in education, Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

The movement termed “Desocupa já” (vacate already) was created by students calling for the resumption of classes. The student who reportedly designed the movement is Luan Freitas, in the 3rd year of high school, at the State College Hector Lira, located in Penha, in Zona Norte (North Zone).

“We believe that there could be other ways we could help teachers, even students, like going to the demonstrations of students, it would be a gesture that would help a lot and would even gain visibility with the state government, which is what they they want,” Freitas told G1 news.

The head office of the State Secretary of Education of Rio de Janeiro, Caio Lima, met on April 12th with students in State College Mayor Mendes de Moraes, on Ilha do Governador (Governor’s Island), in Zona Norte (North Zone) of the state capital. Lima said the schools participating in the occupation movement are taking the right of other students to study, and ‘killing the future’ of these students.

The school was the first to be occupied by mobilizing students in support of striking teachers of the state. “A school with approximately 2,300 students can not be held hostage to a group of one hundred students. Many young people who are losing their academic year, losing opportunities, etc.,” said Lima.

Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Education, Schools
College Mayor Mendes de Moraes, on Governor’s Island, visiting occupied school, photo by Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

However in mid-April the state secretary of education Rio, Antonio José Vieira Neto, told G1 that he considers the movement of students who have occupied [then forty] schools across the state legitimate. He hoped however that the movement’s interests did not succumb to a “confrontation policy” against the government and called for dialogue.

“Every movement of young students, is always legitimate. If the young man proposes to ask a question, he is entitled that. So because I’m in with young people when they critique the model of high school. I work in creating a common national basis for a new high school to give the young the centrality of school. This is of tremendous value,” he said.

Ana Biavatti owner and director of Oficina de Negocinhos, an educational program aimed at teaching entrepreneurial culture, said. “I believe that any fight for a better education is worth being fought. Always.”

Adding, “And if these young people are occupying the schools truthfully with an organized, inspired and fair vision of demanding a better educational system (not just some palliative reorganization) and in real support of the teachers, who are in strike fighting for basic rights (BASIC!), I am proud of them. If that is the case, I am proud that they mobilized and engaged in change instead of abandoning school or being comfortable with the situation. [It] Gives me hope.”

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