[06/08/09] MST Informa #167: In defense of education and of PRONERA

We are mobilized all over Brazil to defend the education of the countryside, an achievement of the social movements that fight for Land Reform in our country. Our challenge is big. We learn through the struggle that Land Reform goes beyond the simple conquest of the land/earth, and necessarily becomes a serious educational policy. Our country figures among the worst in the world in this sense. Statistics from the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education show that there are 35 million illiterate people in the Latin American nations. More than a third are Brazilian. And only 0.2% are Cuban. This demonstrates that investing in the schooling of a people is political will, it is determination for sovereignty, it is the will to construct a dignified history. That’s why education is a fundamental part of the MST’s struggle. The Brazilian bourgeoisie does not allow knowledge to be accessible by the poor. And that’s why we face so many prejudices and obstacle to securing the basic right to study. We make it our issue to always create schools wherever we create settlements. We have a program to eradicate illiteracy in our areas and we fight for public policies that guarantee graduation at every level. Currently, 300,000 people of the MST are studying, including children of Infant Education, who continue to the School for Youths and Adults (EJA), vocational courses and universities. More than 50,000 people have already learned to read and write in the MST. We don’t recognize a similar effort on the part of our governors. According to the most recent National Household Survey (PNAD) in 2007, 14 million people are illiterate in Brazil. If we include in this data the functional illiterates – those who can read, but have great difficulties interpreting texts – the number grows to 32.1 million people, or 26% of the population above 15 years of age. In the countryside, this reality is crueler still. Statistics from the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicate that 29.8% of adults are illiterate and that only 23% of students aged 10 to 14 are in the adequate grade for their age. The National Program for Education in Agrarian Reform (PRONERA) is one of the few federal programs oriented towards changing this reality. PRONERA’s mission is to promote the settlers’ and the campers’ access to formal education at every level, developing actions regarding illiteracy, EJA, fundamental and intermediate teaching, and vocational, superior, and specialization courses. From 1998 to 2002, PRONERA was responsible for the graduation of 122,915 settlers. From 2003 to 2008, another 400 thousand youths and adults had access to learning. Currently, 17,478 people are in the process of qualification, in 76 courses in Brazil. Nevertheless, this right is under threat. INCRA, responsible for carrying out the program, has decided to suspend all agreements for new courses. In addition to this, the government has cut 62% of Pronera’s budget, prohibiting even the payment of grants to university professors and those in education. Even those courses which are currently running could be cut off. We cannot accept this withdrawal of rights. We are counting on the support of Brazilian society to prevent that a human being be denied once more the elementary right to know about and interpret the world. We want land, Agrarian Reform and the right to study in order to continue to transform reality. For this reason we demand from the federal government: -The restoration of Pronera’s budget -The regularization of the payment of the coordinators and professors who work in the university courses -The restoration of the partnership for new courses, through agreements and budgetary frameworks The Landless Movement: For Schools, Land, and Dignity! National Coordination of the MST