February 28, 2021

Bolsonaro completes six months in government with education on the warpath

The president of Brazil, the ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro, completed his first six months of government on Monday wrapped up in controversies for their policies for education and on the warpath with students and teacher unions.

Education is the area that generates the most dissatisfaction since more than half of Brazilians disapprove of the management of the extreme right for the sector.

According to a survey by the Ibope Institute, 54% of Brazilians disapprove of the Executive's performance in this field and the president has already faced his first general strike, called by unions to protest against cuts in education and reform of the pension system.

These are the main controversies of the Brazilian president in the field of education in his first six months in office.

– On February 25, the Ministry of Education (MEC) asked all Brazilian schools to film videos of schoolchildren interpreting the national anthem in tribute ceremonies in all schools. After the controversy over the measure, the ministry rectified and admitted having made a mistake.

– In March, 13,700 posts were cut at federal universities throughout the country and the education budget lost 5,800 million reais (about 1,526.3 million dollars).

– The prime minister who exercised the education portfolio, Ricardo Velez Rodriguez, called for a change in the academic texts to "endorse" the 1964 coup d'état and mentioned the late drug lord, Pablo Escobar, as an example of conduct to prevent the young people used drugs in schools.

– The controversial statements of Vélez Rodríguez were joined by a series of internal disputes between the different power groups of the Ministry that led to his dismissal. The portfolio was directed by Abraham Weintraub, admirer of the philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, a vehement anti-communist considered "guru" of the Brazilian president.

– Bolsonaro defended the proposal of Weintraub that studies to reduce the investment in the faculties of philosophy and sociology with the objective of concentrating in areas that generate an immediate return to the taxpayer, such as veterinary, engineering and medicine.

– More cuts. The new minister announces a reduction of 30% in expenses of federal universities and institutes.

– On May 8, the Higher Education Personnel Improvement Coordination (Capes) suspended the grant of 3,474 research grants considered "idle".

– After the cuts, Bolsonaro lived one of the biggest demonstrations since he took office and thousands of Brazilians took to the streets of some 200 cities to protest against reductions in public spending on education. The extreme right-wing described the demonstrators as "useful idiots" and "imbeciles" at the service of "a minority of profiteers who make up the nucleus of public universities."

– Before this demonstration, the Ministry of Education published a note warning that teachers, officials, parents, students and officials "were not authorized to disclose and stimulate protests during school hours and the school environment".

– Brazilian unions called on June 14 the first general strike since the extreme right-wing came to power to protest against the reform of the retirement system and cuts in education proposed by the Government.

Some 45 million workers joined the strike and participated in protests in the 27 states of the country.

Wagner Romão, spokesperson for the Observatory of Knowledge, a group of unions representing teachers from Brazilian public universities, told Efe that the cuts proposed by Bolsonaro were also supported by other governments but the main problem is that "what the Executive goes against the education molds that the Brazilian constitution establishes ".

"The biggest problem about the Bolsonaro government is that it is clearly against any prospect of building a national education and also of the constitution," he said.

Sandra Carnota Mallón

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