I hope I can accurately document my experiences in Brazil and share my knowledge with other educators. The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Project offers an extremely unique opportunity for a special educator. The need for both leaders and educators in special education to develop a global perspective of their field and an international understanding for policies and procedures abroad is imperative. Opportunities to learn from educators, government officials and inhabitants of countries promoting large education initiatives, especially those targeting students with disabilities and individuals who require alternative teaching methods, offer invaluable information about the country’s perception of special education, the disabled population, and what role culture plays in educating individuals with disabilities. Mutual understanding and learning amongst educators in this field is critical to the development of programs that will meet the unique needs of diverse populations.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sao Paulo (Day 3) Afro-Brazilians

Ibirapuera Park (equivelent to Central Park in New York)

Founder of Geledes and an attorney working for Geledes.

It was another fabulous day in Sao Paulo! I visited Geledes, an NGO advocating for Afro-Brazilian women’s rights, an Afro-Brazilian Museum located in Ibirapuera Park and took a 2 hour flight to the capitol city of Brazil, Brasilia. After having an extensive history lesson and discussion on racism in Brazil during the orientation session in Gainesville, the reality of the situation becoming vivid. The founder of Geledes (Geledes was actually a secret women’s organization in Africa) was very interesting and extremely passionate about her cause. This would probably be a good place to give a quick overview of Brazil’s history. Here goes 200 years in 200 words:
The Portuguese located Brazil by mistake when looking for India. They located many worthy exports, including the Brazil Wood used to make dye, and decided to claim the land. The Portuguese initially used the indigenous population in Brazil as slave labor, but soon this population began to dwindle because of disease. While the English were bringing slaves to the US, their Portuguese counterparts were bringing even more to Brazil. 4.6 million slaves were brought from West Africa, mainly Angola, to Brazil. Slaves were need in Brazil first to plant, harvest and strip sugar cane and second to mine gold and silver. Brazil had many sources of wealth, however unlike the English the Portuguese only used Brazil for its resources and returned home. They had no intentions of settling in Brazil. It was not until 1822 that Pedro I reigned in Brazil. In 1831 a regency was set up . Pedro II won the vote, but it was eventually clear that Brazil was still controlled by a monarchy. He ruled until 1889. Peter II did abolish slavery in 1880, which is a bit later than the US. The thirteenth amendment in 1865 abolished slavery in the US.
While the US and Brazil had much in common in regards to slavery, there are also many differences which have led to very different outcomes in Brazil. Brazil developed no segregation restrictions or Jim Crow Laws. The population of Portuguese consisted of few females which led to high levels of miscegenation. Presently there are many shades of people in Brazil. Because of the levels of miscegenation many people refuse to believe racism existed in Brazil for a very long time. However, it is obvious that whites are held in much higher regard. They hold all the power and position in Brazil. They are the very wealthy residents of Brazil who send their children to private schools, while the public schools, funded by the state government, house students of the lower socio-economic class who usually happen to be children with darker skin color. Race is very interesting in Brazil. There are many levels of color and one sibling may be considered white while another is considered black depending on the shade of their skin. Color is not as tied to heritage as it is in the states. It is based on the shade of your skin. Many individuals who be categorized as black in the US would be considered white in Brazil.
These poor darker skinned children seem to receive the poorest education in Brazil. It was not until the constitution of 1988 that school became obligatory. So previous to 1988 very few of these students even attended school. NGOs like Geledes are fighting for the rights of Afro-Brazilian. As long as they remain in the lower socio-economic class and receive education from poor underfunded public schools it will be difficult for this population to advance. I could continue, but will save more of this discussion for later. It is extremely interesting and complex, but important to remember that a large portion of Brazilians’ either ignore the issue or feel that no issue exists at all! They live under an unconscious veil of disbelief. Meanwhile, according to UNESCO, a black male is 75% more likely to experience violence than a white male in Brazil and this violence has caused a major age gap between the 15 and 24 year old Afro-Brazilian males in Brazil.


Patti at SMS said...

Thanks for the overview of Brazilian history. I am glad they are improving their schools to accommodate children's needs. Like some schools in America, I wonder if there is a trend or correlation between culture and graduation rates?

Jamie Martin said...

Patti that is a wonderful question! Yes, there is a correlation between skin color classification and graduation rate. 80% of the public school population consists of Afro-Brazilians or black Brazilians. Very few, if any go on to college. While visiting perhaps the best public high school in Brasilia, we were quietly told that only 30 out of 900 would attend college. The white population is educated in private primary and secondary schools. They then take a college entrance exam to be admitted to public universities, which are the best universities. The public universities are funded by the federal government and are free if you are admitted, which requires high scores on the entrance exam. You can only obtain high scores on the entrance exam if you attend a good school (a private school in most cases).

jennifer.lanius said...

Okay, so my question would be, are there any special education students/classes for the white population? I would assume so simply because of the wealth of this class. But you know what happens when one assumes. Perhaps they have a special school just for this population? Are there special ed programs available for the black population? Is a higher education diploma as necessary for success in Brasil as it is here?
Okay, enough questions... spray your sunscreen and bug spray and most of all have a great time!

Jamie Martin said...

Hey Jennifer! Yes, the private schools offer special education. They must under federal law. There are also some private schools that are entirely special education. I don't feel special education students are as included in private schools.
A university degree is just as important in Brazil. It is very sad! You can not many jobs without a college degree. The more time I spend here the more I get a real sense of segregation. Also, we found out that the legislature voted against quotas (which has been a highly debated issue in Brazil)just this week. They had, in the past, implemented affirmative action programs in the public universities, but the white population argued against them saying that affirmative action was a tool used by the American government and that Brazil has different issues. The white population, again, refuses to believe there is any form of discrimination in Brazil.

Teresa said...

This is so interesting! Great discussion. I guess we can see that really, people are people, and some of the same issues exist in every culture, no matter how vehemently it is denied. Great stuff, Jamie!