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Brazil ranks amongst country taking responsibility for longer mandatory education

By Marie-Pierre Poirier
Representante do UNICEF no Brasil

Brasilia , 11 November 2009 - With the promulgation of Constitutional Amendment 59 by the National Congress today, mandatory education in Brazil increased from 9 to 14 years (i.e. from 4 to 17 years of age).  Brazil thus consolidates a vision that the right to learn is an essential right of every citizen, especially children and adolescent who are in this very particular phase of human development.  At the same time, the country ranks side-by-side with the Netherlands, Argentina, Germany, and Belgium where mandatory education is 13 years.

In addition to increasing the mandatory duration of education, the Amendment has also brought back resources that had been disengaged from education.  It is now a constitutional obligation to ensure that 18% of the national revenue (after deducting transfers) is applied to education.  The country now has more resources and more legal responsibility with a greater number of citizens, as far as education is concerned.

The challenges that this decision poses to families, society, and the State (who are responsible to ensure the right to education) need to be identified and tacked in a planned and concerted manner.  It should be made widely clear that it is not possible to postpone, based on whichever reason, the realization of the right of boys and girls to learn, chiefly those who have been historically excluded.  The challenge of universalizing the access to and permanence in school, and of ensuring that children actually learn and finish school at the proper age (basic education covers the 4 to 17 age group) is thus huge, and should mobilize and be placed as a priority agenda of all levels of government, social organizations, the private sector, political, religious, and community leaderships, and the media ranging from the largest national networks to the loudspeaker services in remote villages, reaching each citizen and each Brazilian family.

The 2009 UNICEF report on the Situation of Brazilian Children and Adolescents shows that regardless of important advances related to ensuring the right to learn, historic inequalities still persist that unveil the country’s development model. 

In education, such inequalities have to do with the place where children and adolescents live (regional inequalities relate to rural and urban areas); their color and race (Afro-origin and indigenous children are more harshly affected); their personal condition (children and adolescents with deficiencies have more difficulty to have access to school and remain there).  One of the strongest inequalities is related to age, as the strongest indicators are linked to access to chidlren’s education and secondary school.

For UNICEF, promoting universal right to quality education is one of our initiatives in the most vulnerable regions of the country, such as the Semi-arid, the Amazon, and the popular communities of urban centers.  This idea orients our research, publications, and campaigns, and is at the core of our work in the support to South-South cooperation where Brazil plays a key role in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Africa.

We are proud to have participated in the construction of this victory led by the Ministry of Education, having raised this debate at the International Seminar of Secondary Education: Right, Inclusion, and Development, carried out in Buenos Aires in September 2008.  The Seminar, an initiative of UNICEF offices in partnership with the Ministries of Education of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, highlighted the importance of extending mandatory schooling of adolescents up to the secondary.  On that occasion, the Chilean law already provided for 12 years, and Argentina was seeking the necessary changes in its legislation.

It is time to celebrate and congratulate the country, especially the government, the National Congress, and the many partners from civil society who contributed to this important achievement in our legislation.  We see this change more like a statement of a commitment, than an announcement of a situation already in place.  As always, UNICEF stands by all those who, even before obstacles and difficulties, regard the rights of each child and each adolescent in Brazil as an inspiration and encouragement to move forward.  There is no better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (in 2009) and the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent (in 2010) than by strengthening and consolidating the rights of Brazilian girls and boys.

For more information:
Alexander Amorim, aamorim@unicef.org, UNICEF Brazil;
Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org; UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean.

About UNICEF:
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
www.unicef.org/lac

 

 
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