Brazilian students occupy more than 500 schools to reject austerity

Students peacefully end their occupation of the Caetano de Campos school in Sao Paulo to avoid confrontations with military police.
Students in Sao Paulo against new attacks on education. Photo: Twitter / Midia Ninja

Brazilian high school students occupied schools across the country – mostly in the southern state of Parana – to protest against the unelected government of President Michel Temer and his administration's assault on public education in a wave of protests launched on October 3, TeleSUR English said on October 9.

By October 17, Prensa Latina reported that more than 500 schools were occupied in protest at the Temer government's proposed reforms. According to the Brazilian Union of Secondary Students (UBES), 510 schools were occupied, most of them in 63 cities in the state of Parana. Prensa Latina said that an indefinite strike by the teachers of this state began on October 17.

Attacks on education by the Temer administration, imposed after an institutional coup removed elected president Dilma Rousseff, include an unprecedented spending freeze on educational spending for the next two decades, TeleSUR English said.

Occupations began in Parana before spreading to other states. The movement is reminiscent of mass occupations last year that swept across dozens of public schools in Sao Paulo to reject austerity measures slated to shut down nearly 100 high schools in the state.

The protests reject the Temer government’s provisional federal education reform, which critics say failed to consult students and teachers and will produce a deterioration in public education. The controversial reforms, announced last month and now under expert review, would slash the number of mandatory courses for high school students by half. Students and teachers have demanded the government include the education sector in any proposed changes.

Students have also slammed the Temer administration’s latest neoliberal bombshell — a decision to freeze public spending on health, education, social welfare programs and other public services until 2037. The Proposed Constitutional Amendment 241/2016, known as PEC 241, needs to secure approval in Congress, but Temer’s government expects it to pass.

Protesters argue the unelected conservative government is aiming to limit critical thinking with a stranglehold on public education. Teachers have also voiced support for the student movement. In Parana, the APP union of public school teachers wrote in a statement on October 7 that local educators recognise that occupations are aimed at defending quality public education and voice legitimate concerns that teachers also share. The union announced plans to strike.

“We reject the proposals of Michel Temer’s government that threaten education,” said APP president Hermes Leao in the statement, adding that teachers “welcome” the students’ actions. “We will not accept a rollback of workers’ rights, much less unilateral and arbitrary decisions to change education.”


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