In his first weekly radio broadcast of the new year (Café com o Presidente), Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared that one of the highlights of his administration’s performance in 2005 was in the area of education where three action plans for higher education were put into place.
They are the university reform project, decentralizing of federal universities and academic centers by setting up more of them outside large urban centers, and, the University for All Program (ProUni).
Lula pointed out that the transformation of five schools into federal universities is underway, as well as the creation of another four.
And last week 18 contracts were signed for the construction of centers in 14 states (Amazonas, Bahia, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo and Sergipe).
"We are setting up a total of 32 university extension centers so that the youth in smaller cities can have a chance to study at the university level near their homes," said the President, adding that last year 112,000 youths from low-income families got into federal universities and that it is estimated that in 2006 the number will rise to 140,000.
Lula also declared once again that it is important for Congress to approve the government’s basic education and teacher fund (Fundo de Manutenção e Desenvolvimento da Educação Básica e de Valorização dos Profissionais da Educação) (Fundeb) during the special legislative session this month.
The creation of the fund requires a constitutional amendment that has already been approved in committee.
"Although this is an election year, I hope Congress will vote on what is good for the country. We do not want to lose another year. That will not be good for Brazilian children, or for Brazil. We need to get funding to day care centers, and elementary and high school education," said Lula.
The federal government should inaugurate 25 new professional training schools in 2006, declared also the President.
"I have made it clear that in the area of education we do not spend money, we invest it," said the President. "We spend money to build prisons."
Lula said US$ 64 million (150 million reais) had been earmarked for expanding federal professional and technological education schools so they can receive an additional 67,000 students.
Plans are for some 40 new schools to be opened in 2006, including at least five agricultural technical courses.