Brazilian Education under Attack

I recently wrote about how Bolsonaro has declared war on the Amazon forest. Being a retired general, he is waging wars on many fronts. Another enemy in his perverted mind is public education. Two weeks ago, the Brazilian government announced a 30% budget cut for national universities. Public universities conduct more than 95% of scientific research in Brazil. The country has continental dimensions, with an enormous diversity of fauna, flora and human types. More than 50 million Brazilians live below the poverty line with less than 6 dollars a day. The number of people suffering from chronic diseases is high. Scientists discover new viruses now and then, and approximately 20% of the population do not have access to basic sanitation or clean water. In contrast to European and American universities, Brazilian public universities must interact with their communities, generally by offering services such as legal assistance, medical attention, sexual education, etc. This notion is called extension (extensão, in Portuguese). The university has to “extend” and assist the population who ultimately finances them with taxes. This new measure poses an existential threat to universities and consequently to the services they provide and the research they undertake. It is unacceptable, and we must stand against it. Yesterday, demonstrations occurred throughout the country in defence of public education, against this cruel proposal that will further deteriorate our system of national universities. As the protests were taking place, in some cases facing police brutality, Bolsonaro was in Dallas to receive a prize and meet representants of the oil industry. According to a Brazilian newspaper, he spent part of his time visiting the city, going to museums and taking his large entourage to bars and restaurants. He called the protesters “stupid”. This is the level of public debate that we currently have in Brazil. He does not respect anyone who thinks differently. He feels entitled to insult thousands of people exercising their right of peaceful protest. But, as we say in Portuguese, “don’t touch the leopard with a short stick”. Yesterday was the first round of a fight that is only starting.

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