Brazilians turn to military schools in a bid to curb crime and boost academics

World Today

Brazil is struggling to curb rising levels of youth violence. In 2016, more than 33,000 Brazilians under age 30 were killed.

Officials in one Brazilian state are turning to military schools to help solve the problem and president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has promised to expand the program.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

It is not technically a military school, but it is run by the military police and students have to conform to a level of discipline and hierarchy usually found in the army.

Students have to ‘salute’ officers on arrival and follow strict behavior, haircut and clothing protocols. No piercings or chewing gum are allowed. Most disciplinarians are police officers. Teachers are civilians, but there is no principal. Here, the school is led by a ‘commander’.

“The main task of the Military Police is to maintain public order,” said Lt. Col. Luciano Magalhaes, the Commander of Dr. Cesar Toledo School. “We have to stop crime and stop the actions of criminals. If we have police officers in the school showing how important it is to be a good citizen, we are avoiding crime in the future.”

A veteran chemistry teacher who was at the school before it was transferred to the military in 2005 says the change made her job easier.

“After the arrival of the Military Police we had support to maintain discipline,” Maria Helena said. And also the infrastructure of the school improved a lot after this project.”

The plan to transfer the management of state schools in the state of Goias to the Military Police began about 20 years ago  to foster disciple and prevent violence in and around these institutions. But government data shows that the academic performance of these schools also improved.

“I think it’s very helpful for today’s youth education to have this kind of responsibility,” said one parent, Maria Aparecida Marques. “They have to be always on time, to keep their uniform in perfect order.”

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro wants to expand these military schools and he attended a graduation in Goias last year, applauding its success.

However, the militarization of schools faces some strong resistance from most teachers’ trade unions.

“We have to discuss to what extent we need little soldiers or if actually we need students with the capacity to have critical minds and to help decide what the future of society will be,” said Bia de Lima, the President of the Goias Teachers’ Trade Union.

Militarizing schools has proven to be a popular solution among families in the state of Goias, but it remains to be seen if the project will have the same reception if it goes nationwide.