Education Should Be Job One in Brazil

 Education Should Be Job 
  One in Brazil

Almost 40 million Brazilian
children and teenagers are returning
to their classrooms after their summer vacation, and more than
5 million of them will begin school for the first time. The government
commemorates monetary stability, harvests, and the discovery of
oil wells but does not celebrate the new school year.
by: Cristovam
Buarque

Beginning this week and for the entire month of February, Brazil will be inaugurating
yet another school year. We should give even more emphasis to commemorating
the start of the school year than we do to the New Year. The first day of
January is a matter of simple convention, but the first day of school is a
concrete fact marking the beginning of a new time, the beginning of each child’s
future and that of the country. Only the students and their families generally
make note of this beginning of the school year, however.

The government inaugurates
new factories, highways and hydroelectric plants with festivities. It commemorates
monetary stability, harvests, and the discovery of oil wells but allows the
annual inauguration of the future, represented by each new school year, to
pass uncelebrated. For this reason, a year ago, as the Minister of Education,
I suggested that President Lula make a speech on national television and radio
in the days before the students return to class.

At that time it was thought
that such a speech could trivialize his appearance on television. A year later,
as a senator for the Federal District, I would like to make my suggestion
again.

Starting next week and
for the entire month of February, almost 40 million children and teenagers
will return to their classrooms after their summer vacation, and more than
5 million of them will begin school for the first time. It is a red-letter
day for each of them and for the country.

The President’s appearance
on television would help change the culture of Brazil, which gives little
importance to education. By giving the return to school the importance it
deserves and Brazil needs, the President could awaken Brazilians’ consciousness
of the direct relationship between schooling and the future of each child
and that of their country.

His speech could serve
as an incentive to increase the demand for schooling among the families of
the 1.5 million children who are not yet enrolled and of those whose enrolled
children do not regularly attend school and even drop out over the course
of the year. It would serve to draw the families’ attention to the importance
of studying and reading at home after the school day. It would also be the
occasion to motivate the more than 3 million illiterate adults who entered
school during the first year of Lula’s government to continue their studies.
It would give the entire country a sense of communion with education and with
the children.

A presidential speech
on that date would immediately touch the 15 million families, especially the
mothers with children in school, reminding them that education does not merely
depend upon the school; it also depends upon homework with each child. It
would communicate to the 2 million teachers our government’s pledge to valorize,
support, and motivate the work they do. It will remind the media that it too
has a part in the educational process and that television and radio are also
instruments in promoting children’s education in their hours spent outside
of school.

A presidential speech
on the first day of school would change the traditional governmental priority:
presidents always speak about economics and almost never talk about our children’s
education. The speech would, moreover, raise the theme that education is everyone’s
concern: it interests everyone and demands everyone’s efforts. And, in today’s
world, this cooperation is possible only if education becomes the responsibility
of the school, the home, and the media.

Brazil has become increasingly
concerned with education in the last few years, especially in the first year
of Lula’s government. With his charisma and leadership, the President could
deliver a speech carried by the networks that would stir the attention of
the adults and the enthusiasm of the children. This would also be the moment
for the President to reaffirm his pledge and that of his government to education
in Brazil.


Cristovam Buarque – cristovam@senador.gov.br
– is a professor at the University of Brasília and a Workers
Party (PT) senator for the Federal District. He was also Brazil’s Education
Minister during the first year of the Lula administration.

Translated
by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com

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