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Brazzil - Education - July 2004

How Education Fell from Grace in Brazil

Brazilian President Lula, in his first year in office, created an
educational project called Ideal Basic School. The idea
behind the plan was: when it comes to education, each city
should be an ideal city. Now, that project, however, has been
abandoned. Funds are not being transferred to the cities anymore.

Cristovam Buarque


Picture In 1952 the New Zealander Edmund Hillary was the first man to arrive at the summit of Mount Everest. After that, he visited both poles, the North and the South, crossed deserts, climbed difficult mountains, navigated mysterious rivers.

But as an old man, he said that his greatest pride was constructing some schools for children living in the Himalayas. I remembered this in the hours following the death of Governor Leonel Brizola.

Throughout his lifetime Brizola accumulated immense political capital as a leader committed to the transformation of Brazil. Beginning with his first executive post, mayor of Porto Alegre, he made a commitment to education and during his lifetime was a constructor of schools.

Among these, the Integrated Centers of Popular Education (CIEPs) are especially outstanding. Despite the fact that they are now better known for the architectonic mark they left, the CIEPs have a greater legacy in their commitment to schooling with full-day schedules.

The Lula government also created its CIEPs, giving priority to the school and not to the school building, and to the complex of schools and not merely to some unities. In the Lula government, that project was called Ideal Basic School.

Brizola's CIEPs revolutionized each school; President Lula's Ideal Basic School revolutionized all the schools of each city. When it came to education, each city became an ideal city. CIEP in the Lula government could stand for Cidade Ideal na Escola Pública (Ideal City in Public Education).

The government launched the idea in the first month of its administration. In 2003, the program began with the transfer of resources to 29 cities. Just as the Brizola CIEPs were constructed little by little, it would be impossible to transform all the cities of Brazil at one time.

The goal was to continue instituting the Ideal School by complex of cities. In each city, all the schools would have full-day schedules at the elementary and high school level with a program to abolish adult illiteracy in four years and with well-educated, well-paid teachers.

The Federal Government wanted to make a commitment to school quality in each city. To all the schools in all the cities. But that would be done through the involvement of each state and municipality in the education of its children.

Thus, the municipalities would make a commitment to guarantee spaces in school for all the children beginning at four years of age. And the state would make a commitment to assure places in high school for all the young people and to institute programs for abolishing child labor and child prostitution.

Much was done in 2003 alone. An allocation of US$ 31.9 million (95.6 million reais) was made and the Ministry of Education initiated the program financing.

In counterpart, the state governments made a commitment to preparing teachers, principals and school employees and improving teaching staff salaries.

The municipal governments were already responsible for eliminating illiteracy, combating child prostitution and child labor, keeping all children in school and improving teacher salaries.

In the 2004 budget, US$ 81 million (244 million reais) were set aside, a sufficient amount to begin instituting the program in 131 more cities in Brazil.

When the Brazilian people saw the miracle occurring in the poorest cities, a natural movement among the federal, state and municipal governments and the entire population would create the force necessary to carry the program forward.

In 2005 the number would be 300 more cities. To achieve the goal of bringing the program to all Brazilian municipalities in 15 years, it would be enough to take it to 500 new cities per year beginning in 2006. Brazil would be a completely different country.

During Leonel Brizola's funeral, when his coffin halted in front of the first CIEP inaugurated during his government, more than one person from the poorer classes interviewed on television said that Brazil would be a different place today if the governments after Brizola's had continued establishing the CIEPs.

The same could be said about Lula's CIEPs. Now, however, it is apparently unnecessary to wait for another government to take office. The Lula government has itself stopped Lula's CIEPs.

Not all the municipalities are receiving the money transferred to them, and the resources for 2004 are paralyzed. There is every indication that, later this year, the government will propose reallocating the US$ 81 million reserved for the Ideal School.

Lula's CIEP will die in the second year of his government, just as Brizola's CIEP died in the government that succeeded him.

In the second case, at least a great number of CIEPs were established, and, after his death, Brizola could be eulogized in front of one of them.

Cristovam Buarque - cristovam@senador.gov.br - has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04).
Translated by Linda Jerome - LinJerome@cs.com.

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