The Civic Engagement Program of the Associação Politiquê? started in January 2020, with the goal of offering a civic education program for young students by promoting democratic experiences within the educational institutions of the city of Araripina, in the Northeast of Brazil. Due to the closing of schools and the pandemic, we had to rethink how we could best fulfill our commitment to the community while keeping everyone safe and healthy.
Brazil has been hit hard by COVID-19, both in the tragic loss of lives and public health chaos as well as the political and economic uncertainty accelerated by the pandemic. Our original mission was to place the students as the protagonists of social change, investing in their personal growth and in the development of fundamental skills, both related to citizen practice and academic and professional practices. This includes critical and scientific thinking, empathy, respect for divergence of opinions and empowerment as an agent of transformation of its community and social reality - skills that are even more relevant now in a time of crisis.
After extensive conversations and consultations with the local community, we have reformated our program to focus on two main strategies:
Mobilize the school community in engagement actions and encourage a culture of participation as a strategy to combat the coronavirus. We are doing this through the creation and scaling of online communities with schools from the state and municipal networks that joined the program, for the dissemination of citizenship and political content. This is a safe space where students can discuss what they are going through and how they could support each other right now. They were also invited, alongside the wider student population of the city, to join a digital version of our program 'Desenvolva!', in which the students get together in groups and will design and implement a solution to a problem in their community.
Delivery of educational content on citizenship and democratic experiences to public schools in the municipality that joined the Program. This includes videos, webinars, print, and digital manuals on our methodologies of debate clubs, student governments and political education. As we cannot run in-person workshops as we had originally planned, we are producing a digital set of complementary materials to help educators and school managers to implement the programs once the schools reopen.
We have also scaled down our objectives for the program, as the school community of Araripina is quite overwhelmed with all the current changes and we wish to support them, not add any extra requests. Our focus now is working directly with the students and producing a wide set of materials to support educators once things are more stable.
So far, the response has been incredibly positive. We have students from nearly every school in the city as part of our programs - and they are just getting started!