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It is in early childhood when the bases for physical, intellectual and emotional development are formed — and the roots of inequality begin to be attacked. To tackle the problem right from the start, the Lula and Dilma governments invested in construction of daycare centers and kindergartens and the creation of new vacancies in existing units.
With Lula and Dilma, by July 2014, 8,647 daycare centers had been contracted; of these, 2,118 were delivered. In addition, for each vacancy occupied by a child through Bolsa Família in existing public or contracted day-care centers, the federal government supplements by 50% the Fundeb funds for the municipality. In 2013, 463,000 Bolsa Família children were enrolled in day-care centers.
• Education begins in the day-care center
Ensure that all children can read and write by the age of eight. This is the goal of the National Pact for Literacy at the Right Age, introduced in November 2012 by the Dilma government. A commitment was made by the federal government, municipalities, state governments and the Federal District, accepted by all state education secretariats and more than 5,400 municipal departments. Under the pact, by the age of 8 all children must be able to read, understand and produce written text. The federal government invested R$ 1.6 billion by the end of 2014 in training, educational materials and scholarships for 314,000 literacy teachers.
• The ability to read and write at the right age is a principle of citizenship
Enhance learning and reduce inequality. This is the goal of the More Education Program, which lengthens the school day to at least seven hours daily. There are now nearly 50,000 schools offering full-time education – 32,000 of them with Bolsa Família students, who have limited materials and family support structure to do their homework. Besides regular courses, students receive additional help in their studies and tutoring in reading, along with sports and leisure activities, communication, arts, digital culture, environmental education, solidarity and creative economic activities, among others.
Created by the Lula Administration in 2007, the Road to School program takes students to where the schools are, safely and comfortably. In the first five years of the project, the Lula and Dilma administrations delivered 27,000 school buses with special specifications for transporting students.
More than 5,400 municipalities have benefited from the program, which also offers boats and bicycles to ensure access and retention of students in the school network. Another important advance: in the Lula government, day-care, kindergarten and middle school students in rural areas, previously not included, won the right to school transportation.
• All public schools can have quality transportation
• Federal government’s Road to School Program drives education in Minas Gerais
Before the Lula government, public daycare centers for children 0-3 years of age did not receive federal funds for food programs. Lula corrected this injustice at the beginning of his administration, and overcame another in 2009, including high school students (8.3 million students in 2013) in the National School Nutrition Program (PNAE). Also in 2009, it was made mandatory to purchase 30% of school meal supplies from family farmers, strongly benefiting small local farmers and ensuring healthier food for students. Funds for school meals jumped from R$ 848.5 million in 2002 to R$ 3.5 billion in 2013.
In the last decade, the Lula and Dilma governments created a strong policy to combat illiteracy, with the support of states and municipalities. The Literate Brazil Program provides additional resources for literacy teachers and acquisition and production of teaching materials, along with student meals and transportation. The result of these and other actions was a reduction in youth and adult illiteracy: from 11.5% in 2004 to 8.7% in 2012. In the 15-19 year old bracket, the rate is currently only 1.2%, below the overall average, which demonstrates the effectiveness of policies for basic education.
It won’t work. Public school students aren’t motivated." This was one of the phrases President Lula most heard when, in 2005, he decided to organize the first Public Schools Mathematics Olympiad (OBMEP).
But the initiative was so successful that for the ninth competition in 2013, 19 million children and teenagers from 47,000 schools in 5,529 cities (99.35% of Brazil’s municipalities), participated in the games for medals and bags through the Junior Scientific Initiation Program, developed in partnership with the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA). The purpose of the “Games” is to encourage students to pursue science and technology careers, and put Brazil in the highest place on the podium.
To help write the future: this is the goal of Portuguese Language Olympiad, a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Itaú Social Foundation. In 2014, in its fourth edition, the Olympiad received applications from 176,000 classes of students, competing in Poems, Chronicles, Memoirs Literary and Opinion Article categories, together with 100,000 teachers from 46,000 public schools across the country.
The quality of texts is a surprise each year. Look at the verses by Henrique Douglas, 12, son of a Rio Grande do Norte cowboy in the NE backlands: "The backcountry man longs/For a visit in our land/Doing the honors/ Anxiously awaiting/St. Joseph intercedes/And the people pray. "