Sheltering Kids in Slums with a One-Stop Center Series: A Three Part Series: PART 1: April 15ways to Keep Rural Children in School PART 2: TODAY Urban Renewal through Day Care; High-Tech Teacher Training PART 3: April 29 Embracing Minority and Immigrant Students
Howard LaFranchi, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
Want to see the face of education's future? Meet Maria Lucia Kamache. One part principal, one part mom, she runs a one-stop community center in Rio that turns a slum into a neighborhood. In Argentina, teachers embrace immigrant kids, even writing a dictionary to help understand them . Brazil boosts teacher quality with a live, interactive TV show that even reaches schools in the jungle. All of these efforts aim to create a wider sense of community and a more expansive definition of education to help carry Latin America's schools into a new century.
In the courtyard of a former juvenile-detention center, a group of children are laughing and clapping as they practice capoeira, a martial art set to music. The kick-flip-slash dance is one of a dozen activities going on in the children's center in Maracana, one of Rio de Janeiro's poorest neighborhoods. It serves as a community education center for homeless or abused children and teenage mothers. Its aim: to prevent crime among children.
"This place opened as a juvenile jail, but it ... certainly didn't solve anything," says Maria Lucia Kamache, Rio's former secretary of education who in retirement took on the center. "Now we have these halls full of all kinds of activities, and the kids love it." In a city with a reputation for violence against and by children, neighborhood-improvement projects are being designed with young residents in mind. "Rio is not innately more violent than other places, but it does have 30 years of haphazard urbanization," says Maria Lucia Petersen, director of Favela Bairro, an internationally recognized city program "to use every factor we can, including education, to break the cycle of violence." Urban renewal projects are opening up old neighborhoods with new plazas, wider walkways and streets, and new lighting. Preschools and day-care centers are being introduced to neighborhoods that never knew they existed. Perhaps most important, schools are being used in new ways. More than 2,000 children already benefit from an after-school program to keep youngsters off the streets until mom or dad comes home from work. …