Source: Wide Angle: "Back to School"
Many of the children of Brazil’s favelas (slums) find a safe haven and second home at school. School enrollment is increasing, but the quality of education still remains substandard. In this video from Wide Angle, meet Jefferson, a child of the Rochinca favela who is one of the few students in his second grade class who can read and write.
South America Map (Image)
Brazil Map (Image)
Jefferson, in Brazil, faces many urban challenges on his way to and from school. For him, school is a refuge, providing food as well as creative forms of learning. In school Jefferson is one of the few children who can already read and is helping others. His opportunities are far greater than his mother's, but the family struggles to make a living and buy the necessities of life, in spite of a small grant (the "Bolsa Familia") from the state that depends on Jefferson staying in school.
Many Americans assume that free public education is a fact of life, but that is not true for over 100 million children around the world. The 20th Century saw a growing divide as more and more industrialized countries embraced state-supported education, and non-industrialized countries did not. In the non-industrialized countries, education remained bound by traditional practices or was available only to the wealthy.
To address this problem 1,100 participants from 164 countries met in Senegal in April of 2000 to adopt the Dakar Framework for Action, a re-affirmation of the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All. One of the commitments made in the Dakar Framework was to ensure that "by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality."
While the Dakar Framework states that education is a human right, the reality for children around the world is very different. Education is often restricted by gender and/or income. In some places there is a shortage of qualified teachers. Some children around the world must cope with diseases like HIV/AIDS within their families, schools, and communities. Lastly, there can be a conflict between traditional values and the push toward education.
Securing government and community support for education has not been simple. Looked at historically, education has been a challenge that spans ages. Confined to the secular or religious elite for millennia, it was only at the beginning of the 19th Century that Napoleon introduced the concept of free public education, to foster loyalty to the central government. Enlightenment thinkers and their heirs stressed the importance of education as a foundation for representative government. Later, industrialization created the need for basic literacy for factory workers. At the dawning of the 21st century, quality free public education has now been achieved for the industrialized world. The challenge remains to bring it equally to all the world's children.
To put a human face to the global crisis in access to education, Wide Angle filmed seven children around the world as they began school in 2003. This effort resulted in the documentary "Time for School." The film crew returned to visit them again in 2006, making a second documentary, "Back to School."
ELIANE SOARES School is a second home for the kids; for some it's a first. Here they can count on learning and affection. It's a refuge for them, so they can feel connected to a moment of peace and pleasure. On the first day of school, this little boy, Jefferson, looked at me, a new teacher, a little scared and shy.
ELIANE SOARES Smell this.
ELIANE SOARES The name of this sense is... Olfactory!
NARRATOR Jefferson's class is learning to read through a curriculum about the human body. He is in Brazil's equivalent of second grade and is maturing into a focused student.
ELIANE SOARES Generally the kids are very hyper and never stop. But Jefferson is different. He sits in his little spot and waits for my orders.
ELIANE SOARES Use your finger and put some on your tongue. Is it sweet, salty or bitter?
JEFFERSON NARCISO It's salt.
ELIANE SOARES Is he sensing this only with his mouth? Using his...
ELIANE SOARES What I find interesting is that he already knows how to read. Generally this doesn't happen. Most of the kids aren't reading fluently.
JEFFERSON NARCISO Put a "g" there.
STUDENT This is a "g"?
JEFFERSON NARCISO No, that's an "o".
NARRATOR Brazil's school enrollment over the last decade has been a great success, but quality of education has not. While nearly every child is now in primary school, fewer than five percent of them can read properly by the fourth grade.
LESLIE NARCISO He always obeys the teacher and they like him very much. The only complaint is that he eats a lot.
NARRATOR When Jefferson's mother was growing up, there were fewer opportunities for families like hers.
LESLIE NARCISO I studied until the fourth grade. My mother didn't have the means to take care of us and to give us what we needed, so I stopped my studies and went to work.
NARRATOR Leslie and Ivan take occasional odd jobs, which they supplement by making bracelets for tourists. This has become something of a cottage industry for the family.
LESLIE NARCISO The money we get, we use to buy Christmas outfits -- shoes and things like that.
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