While Valentina, 13, takes her online classes, Gustavo, a young boy of the same age, sells mangoes at the market, a symbol of inequalities in education in Brazil, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
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“Gustavo hasn’t had lessons since March 16. He helps his father sell fruit in three different markets instead of going to school, ”said Vanessa Cavalieri, Valentina’s mother and children’s judge, in a Facebook post shared thousands of times.
“The inequalities between public and private students, which are already abysmal, widen even more,” she concludes, adding that she had voluntarily changed the young boy’s first name to preserve his identity.
In Brazil, only 19% of the most privileged students study in private institutions, while the rest are educated in the public, most of the time in precarious conditions.
COVID-19 has hit black and underprivileged populations harder in this country of 212 million people, the second most bereaved after the United States, with more than 144,000 dead.
Most schools remain closed, despite pressure from some private establishments to resume classes.
“This situation is complicated in all countries, but in Brazil, certain circumstances complicate things even more,” Catarina de Almeida Santos, a pedagogical specialist at the University of Brasilia, told AFP.
“Online courses for poor students are an illusion. They don’t have the right equipment or the internet connection, ”she insists.
But a reopening of public schools in the midst of the pandemic could cause many health problems.
“Many establishments do not have drinking water, toilets or electricity. More than 40% of them are not connected to the sewerage system. Under these conditions, we are exposed to a sharp increase in contamination, ”warns the specialist.
Like many parents, Cinthia Pergola, a social worker and single mother in Sao Paulo, finds it very difficult to help her children take online classes when she still has to work and take care of the housework on her own.
“I see it as a bit of a sabbatical, we spent more time together, but in terms of learning, it’s a failure,” she told AFP.
Despite her modest income, she considers herself privileged because her children can attend classes on her laptop.
Juliana Stefanoni Iwamizu, teacher at a public primary school in Sao Paulo, reveals that barely 10% of her students manage to take online lessons.
“Many of them live in favelas, they don’t have running water at home and often depend on the canteen to eat. So of course, they don’t have internet, ”she laments.
The situation is not much better in the private sector, with enormous confusion over the resumption of classes.
In normal times, these establishments have more resources than the public, but nearly half are on the verge of bankruptcy, with parents refusing to pay the monthly payments, according to a recent study.
And the lack of a coordinated policy on the part of the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro makes the situation even more chaotic.
“Each school uses its own online platform, with different strategies to manage student requests. We do not receive any directives from Brasilia, we have the impression that education is an enemy of the government, ”denounces Timmon Vargas, chemistry professor at a private college in Rio.
The confusion only increased when the reopening of private schools in Rio, initially set for September 15, turned into a legal imbroglio, with contradictory announcements and judgments repeatedly canceling the return of students to the classroom. class.
The latest decision, taken by Judge Peterson Barroso Simao, keeps all schools closed, in the name of equal opportunities, so as not to favor private students.
“This would only contribute to increasing inequalities,” he said in his judgment.