Violence and Educational Attainment in Brazil


SEATTLE, Washington — Violence in Brazil has caused instability, which is known to further poverty. Such instability presents itself in the decrease of student educational attainment in Brazil as students avoid school to avoid violence. Several organizations are working to provide children with better educational resources.

Violence and Educational Attainment in Brazil

In 2017, Brazil had a record year of violence. There were more than 60,000 homicides. The director of the Brazilian Public Security Forum, Renato Sergio de Lima, commented on this record high of violence. “We have two persistent phenomena: violence against women and criminal gangs dealing in drugs and arms.” According to a report by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) and the Brazilian Forum for Public Safety (FBSP), Lima’s observations find grounding in the immense 47,510 deaths by firearms.

Data sets on 2016 homicide rates from the Cost of Crime interactive map indicate a large concentration of crime in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Such areas are known to have a high concentration of favelas, which usually means a high concentration of gang and criminal activity. In Rio de Janeiro alone, there are about 600 favelas where shootings and gang violence are an everyday occurrence. For example, there were 194 gun deaths in July 2019. Those are just the shooting that the police were responsible for.

Life in Brazil’s Favelas

It is often difficult to fathom what it is like to live in an environment like this. However, such events are standard for Brazilian residents, including young students who live in the country’s poorest regions. Murder rates in the North and North Eastern states are at a high 68 percent. This has significantly affected school attendance rates.

For example, 11-year-old twins Samir and Samira da Silva live in Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro. In a video interview describing their experience within their favela, the young children describe the effects of such violence on their education. Samir states, “Sometimes, our classes are canceled due to school shootouts. Sometimes we go three days without classes. We stay home then… We stay inside because we are scared.” Such fears due to violence speak to the children’s disassociation and the decrease in educational attainment in Brazil. As a result, the situation of violence is a definite impingement on social mobility.

The Effects of Violence on Educational Attainment

Researchers Martin F. Koppersteiner and Livia Menezes studied the homicide map data discussed above in relation to school proximity to view the effects of violence on educational attainment. What they found was striking. Their findings included a reduction in grades and attendance, increased drop out rates and lower aspirations in attending school. For schools near homicides, there is a 2.3 point drop in math scores and a 1 percent reduction in attendance per semester. At the same time, 6 percent of students repeat grades and 10 percent drop out altogether.

However, on a positive note, there was a 22 percent drop in homicides from January 2018 to January 2019, according to a G1 Monitor of Violence report. The report indicated 39.527 deaths in 2018 as opposed to 30.864 in 2019. Such a decrease is thanks to intelligence investment, integration of forces, prison control and agreements between opposing forces.

There is much work needed to continue a decrease in homicide and provide students with a calm environment. Community organizations work to provide security and peace of mind for favela students. These organizations are thereby enhancing students’ chances of educational attainment in Brazil and social mobility.

Organizations Helping the Cause

Owner of Community in Action, Zak Paster, saw a need to utilize administrators and teachers for instructing students in their own neighborhood for a more meaningful impact. The organization has helped 10,000 people in favelas. It makes positive impacts with engaging classes such as art, computer literacy and tutoring classes. Art provides a creative outlet for children in favelas to be engaged even while out of school. At the same time, computer literacy increases digital skills for a modern world, which is very important for lifting students on the social mobility scale.

In a similar tutoring fashion, Tem+Matematica provides math services to seventh and ninth-grade students in small groups for individualized attention. Tutors also come from the same socioeconomic background, inspiring students that they can also surpass challenges in their environment to succeed. There are more than 45 hours of tutoring through 90-minute sessions twice a week. The tutoring program revealed an impact in student engagement of an increase in perseverance at .33 points and working in a group setting at 0.5 points.

The Success of Brazil’s Children

School days in Brazil are already short at four hours a day. Thus, an additional reduction in time due to violence is a massive impingement for students. With organizations like Community in Action and Tem+Matematica, students impacted by time reduction see a benefit in engaging classes and additional tutoring to supplement their curriculum and increase attainment.

The founder of another Brazilian community NGO, Diana Nijboer of EduMais, believes in the success of favela children given the circumstances of their environment. Nijboer’s programs include supplemental education in the form of English, web and game design, entrepreneurship, exchange and labor market. While working hands-on with students, Nijboer has great hope for their success. She states, “they become more flexible and adaptable and that’s going to bring them a better future… They are capable, and that’s what they take with them that’s going to change the community in itself.”

The power for change is in the hands of favela children, but they must have access to the proper tools for educational attainment in Brazil. These community approaches are working to engage Brazil’s youth and provide that access in a time when violence is preventing school attendance.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr


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