Schools on Brazil–Venezuela border overcrowded after immigration wave

In Pacaraima public schools, of 2,030 new students, 530 are foreigners

Published in 22/08/2018 - 15:44 By Leandro Melito - Brasília

Since the surge in the number of Venezuelan immigrants entering Brazil this year, schools in the border town of Pacaraima, in the northern Roraima state, have struggled to cope with overcrowded classrooms.

The town’s public schools were attended by 1,338 students in 2017, among them Brazilians and Venezuelans. This year, public schools saw the enrollment of 2,030 students—530 of whom foreigners—from nursery to sixth grade, the school years under the responsibility of the town government.

In March this year, Pacaraima Education Secretary Agamenon Rodrigues had submitted a report to the Ministry of Education outlining the situation and calling for emergency measures. His requests, he says, have not yet been granted.

“If we don’t get help, Pacaraima’s education will collapse. We’re no longer serving students, due to the lack of seats available in the classrooms. Our nurseries were supposed to serve 120 students, and we’re currently teaching 280. We’ve made adaptations in our classrooms so we could receive them. And the other schools are overcrowded just the same,” Rodrigues told Agência Brasil.

The document was submitted to the Ministry of Education a second time on Tuesday (21), to Deputy Executive Secretary Felipe Sigollo, who was paying a visit to the town as a member of the federal government’s team sent to the municipality to meet with local authorities and social agents on the matter and to gather data about the immigrants.

The funds received by the Secretariat of Education are directed at both Brazilian and Venezuelan documented students registered in the 2017 census and do not allow for the increased demand seen this year. The town’s schools do not work with waitlists: Brazilian and Venezuelan pupils are equally allowed to enroll after the enrollment period begins.

The document submitted to the ministry lists a number of possible ways of addressing the issue: building new nurseries, adapting existing schools, using containers, renting private buildings, and buying more school materials and food, and investing in school transport. The local authorities also called for 2018’s National Basic Education Development Fund (Fundeb) to be granted early.

Since Pacaraima lies on the border with the Venezuelan town of Santa Elena de Uairén, nine out of ten school teachers speak Spanish, which is also part of the curriculum. Secretary Rodrigues estimates that, among students aged three to five, Venezuelans add up to 60 percent of the total.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Sabrina Craide / Nira Foster

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