Brazil is exporting a successful model for schools teaching information technology and citizenship in needy communities. Responsible for this is the Brazilian non-governmental organization Committee for Democracy in Information Technology (CDI).
The CDI created a teaching system through which children, youngsters and adults from poor neighborhoods learn computer skills from discussing the problems in their communities.
The project was created in Brazil in 1993 and was taken abroad in 1999. Today there are 891 schools following this model in the world, 716 in Brazil and 175 in another eight countries.
Learning IT starts with conversations about day-to-day life in the community where the course is being taught. If a local problem is pregnancy amongst teenagers, for example, the students will research the topic on the Internet and thus learn how to work with the world wide web, or even prepare a newspaper on contraception methods, for which they will have to learn how to use text editing programs.
The teaching is based on the method by the educator Paulo Freire, who says learning should start from the reality lived by the pupils. According to the operations director at the CDI, Mário Vieira, there is the case of a school, for example, which has, with the classes, a project for the people to stop throwing garbage in the community’s river.
The NGO offers basic course that lasts about four months. The pupils learn how to work with the operating system, Internet, text editors, presentations (Power Point) and spreadsheets (Excel).
For pre-school children there is a different course, in which notions of IT is given through games. They also have courses for elderly people, but these follow the same method used with teenagers and adults.
In most of the schools, people don’t pay tuition. In some of them, they pay only a basic fee of about US$ 2.30 for the unit’s expenses. All the work done by the CDI is maintained today with support from companies and foundations.
The project works as a system of franchises, but without charging values. To open a school, for example, there has to be some other institution, like an NGO, church or school, representative of the local community, to become a partner of the CDI.
The Committee enters the project supplying the teaching methodology, lending the computers free of charge and capacitating the teachers, who will be youngsters from the local community. The partner institute is responsible for the place and infrastructure for the classes.
The CDI was created officially in 1995 and currently has a whole structure in the country. There is the main headquarters, in Rio de Janeiro, and also the regional CDIs, which coordinate the work in the schools.
Both the NGO and the regional offices have financial support from foundations and companies and the schools may find resources on their own. The network has great enterprises supporting their work in Brazil, like the mining company Vale do Rio Doce, Microsoft, Esso and Philips.
In the World
The CDI was created by the IT professor and entrepreneur Rodrigo Baggio. Today there are schools of the CDI in 290 cities and 19 states in Brazil.
Abroad, the chain is in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, South Africa, Mexico, Ecuador and United States. In Ecuador, for example, the CDI partner in the work is the Rotary Club. In Colombia, it is an NGO in the education area called Escuela Nueva.
According to Vieira, the CDI doesn’t have aims for expanding abroad. Normally this happens from the interest of potential partners. Both to open a school in Brazil as abroad, however, there are a series and pre-requirements and a selection process.
Anba – www.anba.com.br