Sao Paulo schools take on increasing role of international refugees

World Today

Brazil’s biggest city is seeing record numbers of foreign students enrolled in its schools.

Officials in Sao Paulo say these kids come from more than 80 countries, including those wracked by war, like Syria.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports on the city’s efforts to adapt to the shifting demographics.

At one of the most internationalized public school in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 20 percent of its students are foreigners. It’s the best example of a growing trend across the city’s educational system.

The number of foreign students here has nearly doubled in just a few short years, numbering less than 2500 in 2013 to more than 4700 in 2017.

The number of refugees and economic migrants in Brazil has been growing steadily over the last years as a result of the country’s open doors policy and that includes, of course, many children. Integrating these newcomers to the society is now a challenge Brazil has to deal with.

The headmaster at Infante Municipal School said this community was already known for attracting immigrants – and he’s seen a steady increase in refugees in recent years children that often need special attention.

“Our concern is with the right to education for people that come from all parts of the world, including refugees that have come here fleeing violence, like our students from Syria. We have to find ways to help alleviate also in the school any traumas they may have from this condition,” Claudio Marques the headmaster for Infante Dom Henrique Municipal School said.

Six-year-old Mayas Ghazi came with her family three years ago, fleeing the war in Syria. She only has a few memories from her home country.

“I had to leave behind in Syria my toy duck because we were bringing too much stuff and couldn’t carry everything at one time. I also had to leave behind my goldfish.”, said Mayas Ghazi a Syrian refugee.

Mayas already speaks fluent Portuguese and seems to be making friends and integrating well in her new home.

“There’s also much benefit for the Brazilian students from this face to face contact. They begin to have a better perception of other cultures and they get in contact with other boys and girls in their same age and with similar concerns. So there’s exchange, there’s interaction, which is very good for the Brazilian students.”, said Vera Lucia Benedito of the Ethnic and Racial matters Coordinator for Sao Paulo municipality.

After school, Mayas goes to Unibes a Jewish foundation that dates back to World War 2 when it helped Jews fleeing that war. Now, it offers educational and recreational activities to kids from the city’s public schools including a growing number of Arab refugees.

Being displaced from a home country is never easy. Hopes here are that these initiatives can at least help smooth the transition for some of Brazil’s newest and youngest residents.

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