Brazil’s indigenous population will get around 400 new schools, according to information from the Brazilian Ministry of Education (MEC), which will transfer nearly US$ 8.5 million (20 million reais) to the states and municipalities for the construction of the new units.
90 Indian peoples will be benefited, and 15,000 additional places are expected to become available. Indigenous education currently counts on approximately 165,000 students in 2,332 schools.
Indigenous schools differ from traditional ones in that the students also learn about their community’s culture. Armênio Bello Schimidt, MEC’s director of Education for Diversity and Citizenship, explained that classes may be given in more than one language and address specific matters, such as planting, harvesting, handcrafts, and fishing.
"The indigenous schools have much more content than the non-indigenous ones, but they focus a lot on specific matters. Their work, their customs, their habits, their traditions, and their music. They are geared to the demands of each indigenous community," he explained.
According to Schimidt, it is important for the schools to be located in the villages as a way to revitalize the local culture. "The intention behind having the schools in the villages is to maintain the Indians in their communities," he affirmed.
Nevertheless, the director pointed out that there are still few places available at the secondary level. According to him, around 85% of the schools only go up to the 4th grade. Most of the students, around 120,000, are enrolled in pre-school or grades 1-4.
In grades 5-8, there are 25,000 students, and there are approximately 4.800 in secondary school. "The challenge is for state and federal governments and some municipalities to succeed in building new schools and expand coverage to include a complete fundamental education, which is very much in demand," he emphasized.
To build these schools, municipalities and states had to submit projects to the MEC. Schimidt said that the demand was great. According to him, US$ 28.5 million (66 million reais) were requested, and the Ministry had to made adjustments in the amounts solicited in some of the proposals.
Besides money for construction, the MEC will also transfer funds for the purchase of equipment, such as desks, blackboards, and cabinets.
Schimidt also stressed the importance of teacher training. According to him, 86% of the indigenous schools are directed by Indians. 1,350 will attend teacher’s certification courses in 2006.
But the need is even greater, he says. There are currently 4,000 qualified Indian teachers who plan to take courses that will enable them to obtain a teacher’s license.