Around nine million public school students will complete high school in 2004 in Brazil. But at least two million will be unable to attend institutions of higher education, because either they lack money to pay the entrance examination fee, or they realize that, if they pass, they will lack the means to remain in the course, even if it is in a public university.
This is the reality that the Movement of Students Without a University (MSU) wants to consign to the past. The group calls for the democratization of access to Brazilian universities, exemption from entrance examination fees for public school students, and the creation of more places in public universities.
In an interview with the Agência Brasil, the coordinator of the MSU, Sérgio Custódio, argues that having a low income should not cause any student who wants to go on to higher education to be ashamed.
According to him, the greatest difficulty these students face is having to prove their impoverished status in order to be exempted from fees.
“Where is the self-esteem of a student at a moment like this? It is a recollection he will carry with him for the rest of his life,” Custódio observed.
For the coordinator, the fact that President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva did not attend university can make it easier to adopt governmental policies to improve the access of poorer students to higher education.
“We believe in his commitment to the people of the periphery,” he affirmed.
The Movement of Students Without a University (MSU), which emerged from an organization of social movements linked to university entrance examination preparatory courses for the masses, got its name in 2001 and currently has branches in 10 Brazilian states.
The name was given by the Bishop of São Félix do Araguaia, Don Pedro Casaldáliga, who is a symbol of the struggle on behalf of excluded groups in Brazil.
“The movement works with training, action, and organization together with social collaborators, in order to open the universities’ doors to the people,” the MSU coordinator emphasizes.
Reporter: Marina Domingos
Translator: David Silberstein