By George Utley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A new Nave do Conhecimento (Education Center) was unveiled in May at the Bairro Carioca, an urban renewal project in the Zona Norte (North Zone) of Rio de Janeiro. The center will provide young people with access to various courses including digital literacy, information technology, and tourism in English.
Its inauguration marks the completion of the Barrio Carioca condominium, and represents part of the city’s efforts of urban transformation in anticipation of the Olympic and Paralympics Games in 2016.
The center is funded by the Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House, My Life) program, which re-houses families at risk of flooding, those displaced by Olympic developments, as well as those who qualify financially for the government subsidized housing.
It is named after Sanitago Andrade, a television cameraman who was injured and died earlier this year whilst filming protests over public transport costs. His wife, Arlita Andrade, attended the inauguration. “I was very happy, because I work with children in a day-care center, and I wanted this tribute to my husband to be related to children,” she commented.
Local father of three Joao Fortes said “I think it’s important for youngsters to have a space like this to learn, and even to get qualifications. Where we lived before in Complexo Alemão there was nothing for the kids to do. Now they even have access to computers and can go online for free.”
Construction on Bairro Carioca began in 2011, and the completed condominium now contains 2,240 new apartments. Speaking as he handed over the keys to the final 740 apartments last month, Housing Secretary Pierre Batista remarked that the Bairro Carioca “is an opportunity for a new life for adults and above all children, who will have all the structures and services necessary.”
In addition to the education center, the new community benefits from the nearby Triagem Metro station, fourteen bus routes, a daycare center, family clinic, school, gymnasium, commercial center and health center offering free vaccination against dengue fever. It is being heralded as a model of modern urban planning, and similar projects are being developed in Costas Barros, Centro, Jacaré, Barros Filho and in the Jacarepaguá region.
Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman explained how the impending Olympics are an important factor in driving investment in urban developments. “The Games are acting as an important catalyst to accelerate the sustainable transformation of Rio and Brazil.”
“The Rio 2016 bid was built upon the existing long-term plan for the city. The Games are helping to take many projects off the drawing board and put them into action, in areas such as transport, accommodation, urban renewal, accessibility as well as improved sporting facilities,” he told an Athens-based news outlet.
“We work in close partnership with the three levels of government – federal, state and municipal – and we are all united in our desire to deliver a unique and memorable Games in 2016 and bring positive transformations to Rio and Brazil in the long term,” Nuzman continued.
In January this year President Dilma Rousseff’s government announced an increase in funding for the landmark Minha Casa, Minha Vida program by R$1 billion in 2014. The move, which will funnel R$15.77 billion into the government-sponsored housing credit initiative, according to O Globo, was an attempt to shore up support in an election year.