Education program for settlers and quilombolas almost disappeared under Bolsonaro


A resident of a settlement in the Planaltina region (DF), Sandra Maria Cantanhede, 40, gets emotional when she remembers what she did without having to leave the field. Through the EJA (Education of Youth and Adults), she concluded elementary and high school; now, she is studying nursing at a public university in Paraná.

“Targeted education is very important for beneficiaries of the agrarian reform, quilombolas, riverside communities and traditional peoples. It allowed many courses to exist and many young people did not need to leave their territories.”

Despite the importance of rural education, the resources paid to fund the Pronera (National Program of Education in Agrarian Reform) in the years of the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government totaled R$ 7.3 million, from 2019 to 2022, with a real decrease, since considering inflation, of 83.3%, compared to the previous four years.

In the comparison between the committed amount —that which the State allocated to pay for a good or service that was contracted— the sum of resources during the Bolsonaro government is R$ 22.2 million, a real drop of 76.7%, in the same comparison .

Data were obtained from Incra (National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform), responsible for the program, from the Federal Budget Panel.

Pronera was created in 1998, seeking to serve residents of settlements that were created or recognized by Incra, quilombola communities and beneficiaries of the PNCF (National Land Credit Program). In more than two decades, more than 190,000 young people and adults have gone through the program and, in 2021, the government estimated that 1,741 students would benefit.

According to the government, the program contributes to the education of young people and adults in agrarian reform settlements and the National Land Credit Program, in addition to quilombola communities.

The courses are created based on partnerships between social movements —mainly the MST (Movement of Landless Rural Workers)— and universities. Generally, students leave their settlements and semester studies are concentrated in a shorter period and with a longer workload. The program’s resources help, above all, to maintain students during this period.

The geographer and professor at Unesp (São Paulo State University) Bernardo Mançano Fernandes recalls that the program is part of a set of policies for the population of the settlements, in which a development model for the countryside was built based on family-based agriculture.

“The Bolsonaro government placed ruralists in Incra, not just without identity with public policies aimed at rural development”, says Fernandes, who is also a member of the Pronera National Council. “It’s a program that makes a triangulation of cooperation agreements between Incra, movements and universities. It builds education policies for different levels.”

The projects cover EJA, the professional medium level, undergraduate, specialization and master’s degrees. It also includes training courses for educators and continuing education for teachers in areas of agrarian reform.

The funds paid into Pronera during the first government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2006) amounted to R$ 88.3 million and R$ 64.8 million in the PT’s second term.

In Dilma Rousseff’s first term (2011-2014), R$53.6 million and R$24.9 million were paid in the first two years of the former president’s second term —2015 and 2016, when she was impeached. Under Michel Temer (MDB), resources totaled R$ 10.2 million in 2017 and 2018.


“I had the opportunity to be one of those Pronera students, I graduated in geography in 2011, from Unesp”, says Leandro Feijó Fagundes, 48. With the training, he worked in the MST settlement in Viamão (in Greater Porto Alegre), an area of rice production with 2,500 hectares, organic process and with an irrigation district.

“Geography helped in the reorganization of this settlement, thinking about social, environmental and economic aspects”, he says.

Today living in a settlement in Taquari (RS), Fagundes teaches in the field and provides technical assistance to families, while studying for a master’s degree.

“It is not easy to train educators who will work in multigrade schools or in schools where young people will want to leave the field as soon as they finish high school”, says Claudia Costin, director of the Center for Educational Policies, at FGV, and former director of education at the World Bank.

“The countryside is a space of vulnerability and insufficiencies, but it is also a place of technological development. Making these more contemporary visions reach rural settlements and quilombola communities means making modernization more inclusive.”

In February 2020, a decree by the Bolsonaro government reorganized the structure of Incra, extinguishing the coordination that took care of education in the countryside, which in practice weakened the programs linked to the institute and to the landless and quilombola communities.

In July 2022, still under the Bolsonaro government, Incra reported that the implementation of schooling and educational training actions for children, youth and adults in the countryside is under the responsibility of the state, district and municipal education departments.

The institute also argued that the MEC (Ministry of Education), through Pronacampo, technically and financially supports local governments, with the expansion of access and the qualification of the offer of basic and higher education. And that Pronera contributes in a complementary way, with the execution of the program being planned and executed according to budgetary and financial availability.

According to the experts interviewed by the Sheetalthough the two programs deal with education in the countryside, they are complementary and one could not replace the other, as suggested by the previous government.

“Different studies show that the permanence of youth in the countryside is conditioned to the concrete possibility of income generation and access to education and culture”, says Monica Molina, professor of the degree in Rural Education at UnB (University of Brasilia).

She also emphasizes the importance of this training for the expansion of agroecology practices with younger populations in the countryside. “There are hundreds of Pronera graduates working as directors of schools, teachers in different areas of knowledge, in production cooperatives and associations.”

With Lula’s victory in last year’s elections, students and professors expect a resumption of investments in the program.

“The government needs to channel a greater amount of resources to educational and training policies, precisely to eliminate the delay in training the population in the countryside. When these programs are reduced, this difference in people’s training is perpetuated”, emphasizes the professor from FGV (Fundação Getulio Vargas) Nelson Marconi.

“From the social point of view, cutting resources is very bad for the country’s productivity as well. If this scenario continued, it would be terrible. Some years have already been lost for age groups that were at the right age to have access to courses”, adds Marconi.

Last week, during the new Lula government, Incra informed that it will continue to invest in Pronera. “The institute awaits the appointment of new managers and the structuring of the Ministry of Agrarian Development to discuss the guidelines and priorities of the agrarian reform policy.”

“In recent years, I was able to work on duty in the health area within settlements and camps, helping to strengthen the culture that the important thing is not only to take care of the land, but to value health, with sanitation and healthy food”, says Alexandre Lopes, 36, also a nursing student at Pronera. “We have the hope that now the people govern together and can benefit.”

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