After four years spent organizing the School Grant Program in poor communities of the West African island nation of São Tomé and Principe, the non-governmental organization (NGO), Mission Child, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and the United Nations (UN) will begin to transfer the execution of the Brazilian educational program to the country’s government this year.
The program Bolsa Escola was established in Brazil in 2001, during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration, to provide a month cash stipend to thousands of families in return for keeping their children in school.
The target population was defined by two parameters and a requirement: age, income, and school attendance. Thus, all families with a monthly per capita income of less than US$ 42 and with children between the ages of 6 and 15 attending classes in regular Fundamental Education are eligible for the federal School Grant.
Once approved, the family receives US$ 7 per month per student, up to a limit of US$ 21 (three children). The money is paid directly to the family, which can withdraw it by the use of magnetic cards.
According to Jacy Braga Rodrigues, a Mission Child collaborator, the School Grant benefits 400 São Tomé and Principe families, with a total of approximately 1,100 children. The NGO undertook the implantation of the program for needy children at the request of the Brazilian government.
Rodrigues explained that, due to peculiarities of the family structure there, the program had to be adapted.
"Families in São Tomé and Principe are quite unstable, so we were careful to give priority to women who are heads of families and to children of the female sex. Poverty here is very female and weighs most heavily on women," observed the ex-director of the Educational Foundation of the Federal District.
"The cultural proximity due to the Portuguese language and Africans’ identification with Brazil facilitated the task," Rodrigues affirmed.