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Improving quality basic education for children in Brazil's Amazon Region

UNICEF Image: Brazil: improving education
© UNICEF Brazil/2006/ Page
Some 680,000 Brazilian children, including Nayane of Juaba village in Pará State, will benefit from the UNICEF-supported EducAmazônia project.

By Kent Page

PARÁ STATE, Brazil, 4 October 2006 – The EducAmazônia project works to improve the quality of basic education for 680,000 children attending rural schools in Pará, the largest state in Brazil’s Amazônia Region.

The region’s schools are among the most isolated in Brazil, often located along tributaries in the rainforest. Most teachers work alone in unsuitable buildings, teaching classes composed of several different age groups. Not surprisingly, many children don’t have a chance to learn the basics and drop out of school early as a result.

EducAmazônia, in partnership with UNICEF, aims to help municipalities ensure rural children’s right to education by:

  • Increasing financial resources to rural schools
  • Providing adequate transportation and teacher training
  • Developing appropriate teaching materials to reflect local realities.

Lack of classroom materials

“My favourite classes are science and Portuguese,” says Nayane, a bright-eyed, 10-year-old girl in fourth grade. “I like science because we learn about the human body, hygiene and what to do so we don’t get sick.”

Nayane goes to the primary school in Juaba village, part of the Pará State municipality of Cametá. Her class is made up of 33 girls and boys.

“My teacher gives us lessons in math, geography, history, science, Portuguese and physical education,” she says. “But we don’t have any history books this year, and there’s no one who teaches music. It makes me sad because I want to learn about my country, and I need to learn music. When I grow up, I want to be a singer.”

Juaba is located along the banks of the Tocatins River. Nayane’s classes take place Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the hottest, most humid time of the day.

“If I could change my school, I would start by washing the walls and painting them, because they are so dirty,” she says. “I think our teachers are good, but they need to make our classes more interesting. That would help us to learn more, because sometimes classes are boring and it’s hard for us to be thinking all the time because it’s so hot.”

Getting parents involved

EducAmazônia encourages parents and communities to actively participate in improving their children’s education, while respecting the values and cultures of Amazonian peoples. Local teachers agree that better training is still needed and believe that parents have a large role to play.

Nayane’s teacher, Eddir, acknowledges that the quality of education at the school should be higher. “I only have a basic teacher’s course, but I have to teach all the different subjects in grades one to four, and I teach two different classes every day,” he explains. “It’s not easy for me, because sometimes I have to teach things I don’t know much about. Even I get confused sometimes, and that confuses the children.”

Eddir would like to learn more but says he has little time, and in any case, cannot afford private university tuition on his salary. "What I do know is that even just a little bit of training for teachers like me would make a big difference,” he notes.

“Another problem we have is that a lot of the parents here don’t work or are separated, so the mother needs the kids at home,” continues Eddir. “It makes our job very hard, because when the parents don’t care about school, it’s easier for the children not to care either. That’s why we try to get parents more involved at the school – so they understand why going to school every day, not just once in awhile, can help improve their children’s future.”



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