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Tue 02
“I was a terrible student”: how the presence of the military in schools is changing communities

“I was a terrible student”: how the presence of the military in schools is changing communities

Since the beginning of the school year, members of the military and civilians have been working side by side for a better school environment

Isabelle Barone

After little more than one month of the implementation of the management project shared between civilian and the military of some Distrito Federal schools, the change in the scenario is huge. A 13-year-old student told Globo TV, for instance, that until last year she “was extremely terrible,” but that now she had changed. The statement sparked criticism, but parents and students believe that true progress did, indeed, happen, due to a pilot program implemented by governor Ibaneis Rocha (MDB) in four institutions of the state. Since the beginning of the school year, members of the military and civilians have been working side by side for a better school environment. The project was partially inspired on the model of military schools, such as the ones which exist in the state of Goiás, and will be used as a reference for a federal action all over the country.

“If I say we have no problems, I would be lying, because the problem has been implemented for a short period of time. But it is easy to see that the community and the teachers are happier, have better conditions to work, the organization has improved, habits have changed, and there has been a greater demand for school,” says Márcio Faria, a director of CED (Education Center) 308 at Recanto das Emas, one of these schools who have a shared management, and now has around 200 students in the waiting list for enrolment. Previously, there were plenty of opened vacancies.

“We’ve received testimonies such as the one made by this student on a daily basis. Teenagers have become more respectful, more committed, parents are saying their children are different, are more diligent with their homework,” he says.

As well as CED 308 at Recanto das Emas, the project, called SOS Segurança (SOS Safety) and launched on January 11, have also been implemented in Educational Center (CED) 1 at Cidade Estrutural, CED 3 at Sobradinho, and CED 7 at Ceilândia.

How does it work?

The distinction between the role of military and civilians has been one of the government’s main concerns when implementing the program. The Military Police is responsible for the administrative area and disciplinary formation, while pedagogical issues are in charge of teachers and managers.

“The most precious gain”

Not long ago, teachers at the 308 would spend around 30 minutes merely “trying to say something”. “Students were climbing up the walls, throwing papers, turned their backs on us. It was chaotic. Now it is extremely different, teachers have 50 minutes to work on the content of their curricula,” says the principal.

In order to achieve such a behavioral change, the military have organized the schedule in a different way. The school routine now functions more or less like this: students arrive at 7 am, and head straight to the gymnasium, where they receive their drill commands – an activity practiced by the military, in which a group of people stand, organized, receiving instructions from an officer. “During that time, students receive orientations on organization, school hygiene, behavior,” explains Faria. “After that, they go to their classrooms and remain there until 12:30 pm. No one wastes any time, some of them go home, while others remain for after-school activities.”

Is there any mess?

In this new model, there is no room for rowdiness or mess from the students. The principal explains that those who do not behave must do some sort of “mandatory study”. “When the class is too messy, does not abide by the rules, we have this activity. The student then must go to school after regular hours, and remain there for three to four hours doing activities before a monitor and a member of the military,” says the principal. “The development of the student’s cognitive skills will happen, directly or indirectly.”

In early March, images of a 62-year-old teacher covered in blood shocked Brazil. Paulo Rafael Procópio, who then taught at the city of Lins, São Paulo, was punched by a student in the classroom. A similar episode was recorded at Distrito Federal one month earlier. 36-year-old Giuliano Rodrigues Santos was punched, kicked, and received a flying kick from a 16-year-old boy inside a public teaching institution.

According to a survey done by GloboNews, the number of aggressions to teachers in the state of São Paulo rose by 73 percent from 2017 to 2018. This means that 434 teachers were assaulted within the state’s school network in a single year.

This reality led the principal at 308 to agree that “in the latest years, the community has lost commitment, respect.” “We have faced a true inversion of values, which we must resume, because they are healthy for social coexistence,” he defends.

Mauro Oliveira, of Distrito Federal’s Education Secretariat, says his team is visiting all four schools to find out the perception among teachers, employees, students, and parents, regarding the program. They are also answering questionnaires. “In the last few weeks we have sent questionnaires to all schools inquiring on the perception of the whole school community,” he explains. “The result is yet to come out, but we are certain that the perception is extremely positive, as a whole.”

Haircut and uniforms

In order to make sure all students have access to the new uniform, teachers, managers, and members of the military have gathered with the community to do a “social action”. The school’s new guidelines include wearing jeans pants and white T-shirts, as well as a specific haircut for boys and hair knots for women. But since not all of them could afford to pay for the haircuts or clothes they had been instructed, the school team summoned volunteers to cut the hair of the students and collect clothes and accessories for them.

The Distrito Federal government will donate a set of four uniforms for all students. The clothes will only be delivered in April. Until then, jeans pants and white T-shirts will be their temporary uniforms.

In an interview to Gazeta do Povo, Marcia Amarílio, head of the Civico-Military Schools Support Sub-Secretariat (SECIM), told by email that “in the routine of a civico-military school taking care of appearances and uniforms are essential, since they promote a feeling of belonging and discipline among the students.”

Expansion of the project

According to Marcia, the plan is to implement civico-military schools in all states of the country. “However, as well as the voluntary adhesion of the Education Secretariat, it is fundamental to establish a partnership with Public Security Forces and their acceptance by the community, so the proposed model can be consolidated,” she remarks. From this year on, SECIM will try to “implement and strengthen, along with public teaching networks, new high-level management models, following the standards deployed by the military schools, destined to elementary education.”

“The municipal and state education secretariats which adhere to the program will indicate the schools within their networks that will become civico-military schools, after fulfilling such requisites as: low performance in the Elementary Education Development Index (IDEP); location in areas of low social vulnerability; among others. Participation in the program will require the adhesion of education secretariats, the acceptance of the school community, and the availability of military personnel in each location,” she explains.