Brazil is at a crossroads,
according to João Pedro Stédile, a leader
of Brazil's Landless Movement. For him it was not enough that
Brazilians voted against neoliberalism when electing President Lula.
Neoliberalism, he says, is still present in the press, in the government,
in the universities, even in grade schools and high schools.
If it had to be summed up in only a single adjective, the Second National
Conference for Education of the Countryside, it would be described as "strategic"
by the approximately one thousand participants.
To the social movements
and rural unions, the encounter marks their mobilization for a new platform
of education for the population that lives in the rural countryside of Brazil.
There, a child is eight
times less likely to become literate than elsewhere in the country, according
to statistics furnished by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
importance is clear in the words of João Pedro Stédile of the
National Directorate of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (Movimento dos
Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST) during the opening ceremony.
In his opinion, the question
gains more relevance because we are arriving at a key moment of crisis in
Brazil's development. "The country is at a crossroads," he said,
reminding many of a speech by Fidel Castro, president of Cuba, in which he
said that today the liberation of the people is not affected with guns but
with "pencil and pen."
To the audience that filled
the auditorium, Stédile explained that since the model of "dependent"
industrialization (a paradigm that predominated from the 1930s until the 1980s)
grew stagnant, the elite have tried to implant the neoliberal model of development
"We overturned neoliberal
policy in the elections, but that was still not sufficient," said the
leader of the MST, because this model of development is still present in the
press, in the government, in state administrations, in the universities, even
in grade schools and high schools.
In this neoliberal model,
the education of the country is "disposable" and winds up under
the auspices of the Ministry of Transportation because it requires only broken-down
automobiles to take the people from the countryside.
The thesis presented by
Stédile was entirely endorsed by the Minister of Education, Tarso Genro.
It was the Minister, in addition, who affirmed that the development model
of the Brazilian state still had not succeeded in freeing itself from control
by speculative financial capital, which has used and abused the blackmail
of the public debt.
"There will be no
change and no transition if we do not have a movement from outside to inside,"
the ex-mayor of Porto Alegre affirmed categorically, reinforcing still more
the "strategic" conception of the Conference.
"The great social
changes that occur within a democracy only happen where the citizenry participates
actively, putting forth their own proposals and democratically pressing for
change. There exists no paradigm for changethat is, aside from a dictatorshipthat
does not require influence from outside the government," he emphasized.
"A society that does
not have active social movements is a sick society. It is a society that has
a deficit of democracy. The participation and input of social movements are
the keys to producing changes in the state of citizenship."
The minister said that
he believes these changes will win more space in the national agenda soon:
"We already recovered the increase, and now we have to have strong transition
policies to achieve a development model that implies both the generation and
distribution of income, and an increase in the rates of growth."
The signal of the government,
according to the Minister, was already given. "We now have a Special
Secretary of Literacy and Diversity and a special coordinating committee for
education in the country, which will specifically address the question of
incorporating the magnificent contributions available, such as those coming
from this conference."
To finish, Tarso Genro
complained about the "savage logic of privatizations" and mounted
a vehement defense of the duties of his position: "Education is not a
secondary public policy that can be made conditional."
Retaking Paulo Freire
Specialist in popular
education, professor Miguel Gonzalez Arroyo of the School of Education of
the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), explained that the experiences
of those now participating in rural social movements are proof of the potential
of rural education as a vector for social transformation.
"At times, rural
education in the countryside is spoken of very badly. There is good reason.
Truly, there is a great deal of fatigue, extensive abandonment. The young
in the countryside do not have perspective. They do not have conditions to
study much beyond the fourth grade of primary school.
"This all needs to
be said. But one must also talk of another realitythat is the work being
done by the diversity of social movements in the countryside and by the union
movement," Arroyo underlined.
"If public education
in the countryside is abandoned, the educational programs of the social movements
today are one of the most advanced frontiers of Brazilian pedagogy,"
affirmed the ex-secretary of education for the city of Belo Horizonte.
To the specialist, what
is most interesting in the rural education efforts by social movements and
unions is that they are bringing together all that is most progressive in
pedagogical and didactic concepts, in curriculum design, and in teacher training.
"They are putting
into action all of the pedagogy of theorist Paulo Freire, all of the ideas
of the popular education movement of the 1960s and 1970s in Brazil. This creates
Mauricio Hashizume is a Brazilian journalist.