A Gallery of Distinguished Brazilians: the Educationalists


Vai Vai samba school

“O navio negreiro” (“The Slave Ship”) was written by the poet Castro Alves in
1868, years before Joaquim Nabuco wrote “O Abolicionismo” (Abolitionism). It was
the poet who woke up Brazil and divulged the abolitionists’ message. During the
military regime it was the poets and singers who awakened us to democracy. In
this year’s Carnaval, 120 years after Abolition, the poets have returned to the
street once more with a new banner, educationalism.

The São Paulo “Vai Vai” Samba School sang about education as the way out for the future of Brazil. In the parade of champions “Vai Vai” carried an immense Brazilian flag with the slogan “Educação é Progresso” (Education is Progress) instead of “Ordem e Progresso” (Order and Progress), the motto on the Brazilian national flag.


Thobias Nascimento and the “Vai Vai” dancers are not the only educationalists on the Brazilian scene. The parade was inspired by the businessman Antônio Ermírio de Moraes, an educationalist who defends education as the way out for Brazil. The title of his book, Educação, pelo amor de Deus (Education for the love of God), is reminiscent of Castro Alves.


Jorge Gerdau is another educationalist/impresario who for years has invested part of his resources in education. He is one of the promoters of the Compromisso de Todos pela Educação (Everyone’s commitment to education), which mobilizes our leaders and the national conscience around the importance of education.


Milú Vilela is an educationalist who directs Everyone’s Commitment to Education with Gerdau. And for years she has dedicated her energy and influence to this, seeking support, giving incentives to good teachers, good municipal and state education secretaries.


Viviane Senna, another educationalist, persistently uses her prestige to struggle for education. Not only does she apply political pressure to our leaders, she also invests in education through the Ayrton Senna Foundation.


I had the privilege of visiting her experiment in the Pernambucan Zona da Mata, where I witnessed the rehabilitation of children who had remained behind, abandoned by the government, by their families and by themselves. From the educational point of view, they were believed to be lost causes. The children had already begun to join the contingent of illiterate adults when the program began to bring them hope.


Xuxa, one of the most well known Brazilian performers, is almost unknown for her work as an educationalist in the Xuxa Meneghel Foundation, which serves 350 children from early childhood, as well as their families, for a total of two thousand persons.


Rodrigo Baggio is an educationalist who, since his teenage years, has dedicated himself to the task of bridging the digital divide, something that should have been done in our schools.


Denise Valente leads a network of 40 schools of the highest quality, all maintained free of charge by the Bradesco Foundation. The network serves more than 109 thousand students annually.


Antônio Oliveira Santos, president of the National Confederation of Commerce, inaugurated ESEM, the SESC high school, in Rio de Janeiro on February 19. Founded by SESC, the Social Service of Commerce organization, it is a boarding school for students and teachers.


Jorge Wertheim, José Roberto Marinho, Severiano Alves, Cláudio de Moura e Castro, Nizan Guanaes – Brazil is full of “educationalists,” an adjective still inexistent in our dictionaries. They are militants of “educationalism,” a noun our dictionaries have not yet adopted.


But it already has a meaning: it is the doctrine that considers education a fundamental vector of progress, defending the idea that utopia does not come from the expropriation of the bosses’ capital for the employees but, rather, from placing the employees’ children in the same schools as the bosses’.


The enormous Brazilian flag that the members of “Vai Vai” carried in the São Paulo Sambadrome with the slogan “Education Is Progress” showed that the educationalist movement is beginning to grow in the 21st century, just as in the 19th century an initially very small movement grew under the abolitionist banner. They wanted all Brazilians to be free of slavery; we want all Brazilians to have access to a quality school, their only road to freedom.


All that is needed is the transformation of today’s educationalists into an army. Therefore, you, too, should be an educationalist.


Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his new website – www.cristovam.org.br – and write to him at cristovam@senador.gov.br.


Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.

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