Magazine article New Internationalist

School for Nobodies: Improvised Classroom under Rio's Metro

Magazine article New Internationalist

School for Nobodies: Improvised Classroom under Rio's Metro

Article excerpt

BRAZIL still has the largest foreign debt of any Third World country. 'Structural adjustment' programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are devastating essential public services. The effects are now all too visible on city streets.

The Escrava Anastasia school works on one of Rio de Janeiro's busiest avenues under an elevated section of the Metro railway. About 20 children study while the trains rattle over their heads.

The school was set up by Aparecida Davi Dias, an ex - housemaid who lives with many other families under this same roof. Two years ago she tried to enrol her daughter in a state school which refused to take her on. So she got hold of a blackboard and chalk, made desks and benches from pieces of wood collected in the streets and opened her own school. Her husband Cesar -- a 23 - year - old truck driver who is only just literate himself -- was the first teacher. Aparecida became one of the first pupils. Today the situation in the little school is much improved. 'People stop their cars, ask what we need and then come back with pencils, pens, notepads and books,' says Aparecida. Rare donations of money are used to buy snacks -- some children only come to the classes because they get something to eat.

Katia Estrella, a lawyer, gives up her free afternoons to teach in the school. Always shouting over the noise, always patient with a class disrupted by pigs, chickens and dogs wandering through the 'classroom', Katia does what she can. …

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