Retired Service Members Counter Violence in Brazilian Schools

More Brazilian public schools are relying on service members to help counter violence
Nelza Oliveira / Diálogo | 18 July 2019

Capacity Building

More Brazilian public schools rely on military assistance to counter violence. (Photo: Brazilian Army Public Affairs Office)

The government of the state of Rio de Janeiro announced the hiring of 1,000 reservists who will begin work in public schools in the second semester of 2019. The idea arose from a March attack that led to 10 deaths from two armed students at a public school in the city of Suzano, in the state of São Paulo.

More schools around the country are hiring reservists and military police officers to fight violence. In Rio de Janeiro, service members will monitor building entrances to stop armed students, act as inspectors, and mediate conflicts.

Schools managed with support from the police, Armed Forces, and Fire Department to reduce the country’s crime rate, especially among children and youth attending public schools in more vulnerable areas, is a concept Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro endorses.

In January, the Department of Education created the Deputy Secretary Office for Civilian-Military School Development to implement and strengthen new management models in public schools, based on standards used in the Brazilian Army’s (EB, in Portuguese) 13 military schools across the country. The model, however, doesn’t include the educational curriculum, which remains the responsibility of academic staff. Service members would oversee areas such as discipline, administration, and school installations.

The 13 military schools, both public and private, have an above-average national performance, as per the National High School Examination, which enables admission to universities, and per the Basic Education Quality Index (IDEB, in Portuguese), which measures national education quality on a scale from 0 to 10. Most students in these schools are service members’ children. The competition for placement in these schools can reach up to 270 students for each opening.

A total of 120 public schools in 17 states are modeled after EB military school. Goiás holds the majority, with 60 public schools and 65,000 students enrolled. In 2018, there were more than 20,000 applications for 5,000 available spaces. Major Oscar Alveólos Military Police Public School of Goiás, which went from 5.0 to 6.1 points on the IDEB scale in only two years, illustrates the success of the model.

The Brazilian Army’s military schools, which serve as models for public schools, perform above the national average of both public and private schools. (Photo: Brazilian Army Public Affairs Office)

Betting on the model

The program in Rio de Janeiro dubbed Care will hire reservists, as well as military police officers to patrol areas near schools and to respond to calls in the event of threats.

“All professionals who will be working on the program are also trained for conflict mediation, through a partnership with the Court of Justice. The expectation for these operations is that they will increase the sense of security and generate benefits, including a reduction of student drop outs, due to improved security to attend classes,” said Pedro Fernandes, secretary of Public Education of Rio de Janeiro, at the Care launching ceremony, on April 17.

At the onset of 2019, the secretary of Public Education created the Shared Management School in Brasília, choosing to hire military police for community patrols and to counter violence in schools. The pilot project operates in four schools with nearly 7,000 students. Schools were selected based on basic education development indexes, education quality, human development, and the violence rate where they operate.

“The distribution of police officers is based on the need of each educational network. All military police officers have been trained to work in schools,” the Public Affairs Office for the Federal District Public Security Secretariat told Diálogo. In the capital, the Dr. César Toledo Military Police Public School is proof of the program’s success with an IDEB score of 4.7 in 2007 and 7.5 in 2017.

“The school environment is noticeably more peaceful, and teachers can work at ease,” the Public Affairs Office for the Federal District Public Education Secretariat said. The initiative also helps reservists, who want to continue to work and leverage the expertise acquired in the Armed Forces.

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