At the school in Mata Escura, on the outskirts of the city of Salvador, students are preparing for Carnaval 2014, which begins on 27th February. The Carnaval celebrations in Salvador are the largest in Brasil – last year 527,000 tourists flocked to the City for the week-long festival of music and excess. The Carnaval week is traditionally a public holiday for locals and the school will be closed, however not all our students will be joining the party.
For many impoverished families in Salvador, Carnaval offers a much needed opportunity to earn some money. Small family enterprises spring up all over the beachfront district during this period, and although the local authorities have been tightening the restrictions on unauthorised street vendors, a very large number of the city’s children still earn money that week selling drinks, snacks and souvenirs and finding parking spaces for drivers. We have witnessed children as young as 4 years old selling canned drinks along the Carnaval route. The situation for these kids is far from ideal, but it would be idealistic to try and prevent families from taking advantage of this opportunity.
Unfortunately there is a darker side to Carnaval – crime rates (already amongst the highest in Brasil) take a dramatic rise during this week. Pickpocketing and drug dealing reach endemic levels and children, owing to their size and protection from prosecution are sadly often involved. It is the continued work of our school to try and protect our students from becoming involved in Salvador’s criminal world.
Back to the school – our students returned from the Christmas break in the second week of January. A new intake for 2014 saw a lot of new faces – lots of new younger students are in the process of adjusting to crèche. It is great to see that our school continues to grow in reputation and popularity in the favela and there was a queue of new enrolees on opening day.
A number of our oldest students were enrolled in the local state school at the end of December. We encourage parents to register their children for state education as soon as they are old enough - in Bahia the enrolment age is 7 years old. The public education system has many problems, class sizes are very large, lessons are regularly cancelled due to a lack of teaching staff and facilities are poor – but attending the state school is the only way that children can obtain the formal qualifications that they will require later in life. As children only attend the public school for half days, we offer ‘Banca’ = reinforcement classes for these students for the remainder of the day. During ‘Banca’ children can get help with their homework, extra tuition, lunch or breakfast and a safe place to stay for the remainder of the day whilst their parents are at work.
Our ‘Banca’ students are also providing invaluable assistance to teacher Andrea in helping the younger students adjust to life at the creche, assisting in the classroom during her lessons and at lunchtime. In a perfect world this would not be necessary and we would be able to offer extra tuition to these older students 100% of the time, unfortunately however our teaching resources are limited and their help is greatly appreciated. Whilst schoolwork will always come first, we also believe that there is an intrinsic value in the teaching and nurturing skills that the older students are developing and we have been very impressed in the transformation of some students who had behavioural problems in the past but, have flourished when caring for their younger colleagues.
Thank you for continuing to support this project and we look forward to being in touch again soon!
All the best