High school students have been occupying the majority of schools in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil since the end of March. At the same time teachers have been on strike in the city for two months.
Education funding in Rio has been cut by almost 30% over the last year, meaning that schools lack basic infrastructure like functioning labs, computer rooms and air conditioning. Both teachers and students are demanding sufficient funding as well as a more democratic school system. The Rio school administration has introduced regular testing for students on which bonuses for both teachers and schools are based. The protesters want the money to be distributed equally.
The lack of funding in Rio schools is particularly shocking given the vast amounts of money being spent on infrastructure for the Olympic games - due to take place in the city this summer. When the World Cup was staged there two years ago there were mass protests which pointed out the difference between the poverty of public services and of many of the inhabitants of Rio, and the money lavished on the World Cup. However as one teacher said at the time, “We would like society to understand that our struggle is not just salary…But against this policy that has transformed classrooms into production lines, dehumanizes education and promotes a climate of competition that only harms the young students."
School occupations have become a major feature of struggle for public and democratic education in Brazil, with similar actions taking place in Sao Paulo and Goias.
The political situation in Brazil is highly volatile at present with right wing forces taking advantage of the economic downturn to attempt to organise a coup against the centre left Workers Party administration of Dilma Rousseff, a move which the Brazilian teachers union CNTE has been active in opposing.