“Brazil deserves a chance to take its place among the world’s great nations, but it must believe in itself,” said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, September 25, in a graduation speech to approximately 13,000 youngsters and adults who participated in the Literate Brazil program.
Lula went on to say that “for years they stuffed our heads with the idea that we were the Third World and, therefore, had to be subjected to the direction of the Portuguese Crown or, afterwards, to the economic power of this or that nation.”
And he explained that, from the time he was a child, he learned from his mother that “if you don’t respect yourself, nobody will respect you.”
The President also pointed out that, to be respected, the country must improve its educational system.
“No country is able to make a qualitative leap, to be developed and prosperous, without investing in the education of its people,” he asserted.
Lula recalled that he was the child of illiterate parents and said that this was one of the happiest days in his 19 months commanding the government.
He underlined the government’s concern with the quality of education in the country’s public schools.
“The Constitution says that everyone has the right to an education, but we know that, even though 99% of Brazil’s children are in school nowadays, we are still discussing the quality of the schools they are attending and what they are really learning.”
The President also referred to Brazil’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly last week, when developed countries were summoned to join an effort to combat hunger and extreme poverty.
“What we did there is only a demonstration that when you want something, you do it. What we cannot allow is for our oppressors to determine our actions, our desires. That is why we are breaking records with our exports, obtaining a trade surplus such as never before.
“And why we are qualified to herald the hunger alleviation campaign in the international media. Because, if someone doesn’t have enough to eat, he or she can’t even learn how to read.
“When your stomach is quivering from hunger – and you can only learn this from experience; if you haven’t, you theorize, you don’t know the galling, bitter taste when hunger squeezes.”
The 13 thousand youngsters and adults were taught to read and write in 27 municipalities of the state, through a partnership between Brazil’s Ministry of Education and the Federation of Industries of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Firjan).
Translator: David Silberstein