Pin It
brazil protests.v1
A Brazilian student at previous street protests to challenge the austerity measurevia Twitter (Alexandre Sentos)

Brazilian students occupy over 1,000 schools to protest cuts

Schools across 19 states have been occupied in a widespread rebellion against proposed budget cuts and education reforms

Students have taken control of schools across Brazil to protest against government budget cuts to education.

Hundreds of Brazilian schools in 19 different states began the takeover at the start of October, according to a report by Associated Press. The widespread rebellion is in response to President Michel Temer’s austerity policies that greatly affect local education.

According to the Brazilian Union of Secondary School Students, around 1,000 schools have been occupied.

Temer intends to bring in a federal spending cap to tackle Brazil’s serious budget deficits, which could directly affect spending on education systems. He has rejected claims it would encroach on schooling, promising cuts would be made elsewhere.

Schools like Rio de Janeiro’s Colegio Pedro II – Humaita II high school are occupied by upwards of 150 students, with up to 50 sleeping overnight. Students there have set up classes, yoga, a library and various activities.

A student there, 16-year-old Julia Couto, told Associated Press: “Public education is already so bad. How can the government reduce spending on it?”

Parts of Brazil have seen aggressive intervention by the police, using teargas and excessive force on young protesters. 

The president has described the student protests as “throwing an old tire in the road to stop traffic.”

A proposed education bill would make subjects like arts and physical education optional, rather than mandatory, and plans are also in place to lengthen the school day – though students say this will not encourage more quality teaching.

16-year-old Ana Julia Ribeiro has become the face of the movement after testifying to the legislative assembly in Curitiba.

“To whom do these schools belong?” she asked in her speech, as CNN reports. “This is our country, it will be the country of my children and the children of my children and I am concerned about the future.”

"We can't just sit back with our arms crossed. We know that we need a reform in high school education and the educational system as a whole, but we need a reform that has been debated and discussed and promoted by education professionals.”

She added: “This isn't a game for us, we know what we are fighting for. Our flag is education, our only flag is education. We are a nonpartisan movement. We are a student movement for the students.”

The proposed amendment which would affect schools is due to be voted on again on November 29. More protests are planned in the capital for that day.