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UNICEF helps launch a national alliance for universal access to quality, basic education in Brazil

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©UNICEF/BRZ/Mila Petrillo
A girl in Brazil’s Semi-Arid region participates in a UNICEF-supported project which adapts the teaching content and school calendar to the local, cultural reality of the Semi-Arid. This approach helps to reduce drop-out rates and improve learning.

BRASILIA, 6 September 2006 – Today, in Sao Paulo, UNICEF is participating in the launch of the national alliance ‘Commitment: All for Education’, whose objective is to improve education in Brazil by ensuring that all children and adolescents have access to quality basic education, and that they continue attending classes until completion.

The ‘Commitment’ is a national pact that brings together the Brazilian Federal government, the National Organization of Municipal Education Managers (UNDIME), several NGOs, private foundations and institutes, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Brazil. The national alliance works with an established set of goals and projects that will be monitored year after year until 2022, when Brazil celebrates 200 years of independence.

With a primary education enrolment rate of 98%, Brazil has almost reached MDG 2: universal primary education. However, in the poorest regions, such as the North and Northeast, only 40% of children actually complete their primary schooling. And, in the more developed regions, such as the South and Southeast, this proportion rises to only 70%.

The top priorities in the area of education for UNICEF Brazil are universal access, quality basic education and ensuring that children learn successfully. UNICEF works with partners to achieve these priorities by supporting initiatives such as the ‘Commitment’, which guarantees children access to school, and also improves the quality of the education and teaching provided.

Nevertheless, in spite of significant progress made over the past few years, today 800,000 Brazilian children aged 7-14 are still out of school. “Of these 800,000 children, 500,000 are afro-descendants”, said Marie-Pierre Poirier. “This reminds us that the challenge of promoting universalization includes the fight against exclusion, including exclusion motivated by racial and ethnic factors.”

Key challenges are to ensure that children’s learning needs are met, and to strengthen educational methodologies which are adapted to their local and cultural reality. In the Brazilian Semi-Arid region, for example, more than 350,000 children aged 10-14 do not attend school, and the pupils often take 11 years to finish the 8 grades of primary school. This is due in part to the lack of curricula and education content that are adapted to the day-to-day reality of the children in the region. The situation is being addressed by: adapting the teaching content and school calendar to their reality; strengthening the capacity of teachers, municipal councils, families and NGOs; providing extra-curricular activities such as sports and culture.

“Classes adapted in such a way make much more sense for the children and help improve their performance in class,” explains Cenise Monte Vicente, coordinator of UNICEF sub-office in Sao Paulo. Experiences supported by UNICEF in the municipality of Uauá, Bahia State in Brazil’s Semi-Arid region - where children learn Portuguese, math, history, and geography, and also study from textbooks that show how to best live in the challenging Semi-Arid region - have resulted in a decrease of school dropout rates and in the improvement of students’ learning.

UNICEF Brazil will monitor and support the ‘Commitment: All for Education’, to guarantee the accomplishment of its goals.


 

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