Entirely aimed at the Brazilian community, a free supplementary course helps immigrants complete high school in Portugal. In addition to the mandatory disciplines, the programmatic content includes subjects designed to facilitate integration in the country, such as classes on Portuguese culture and politics.
The project’s challenges are as big and diverse as the Brazilian population in Portugal, which already represents a third of foreigners in the country. Those responsible for the course estimate that at least 10% of the students who went through the program were functionally illiterate.
“In some cases, they were completely illiterate. Some only knew how to draw their own name”, says the initiative’s pedagogical coordinator, Rejane Lima. Therefore, the course also offers classes more focused on the development of reading and interpretation of texts.
Classes are held in the evening, allowing students to combine supplementary education with work schedules.
Although most students are over 30 years old, since the beginning of the pandemic there has been an increase in the participation of young people aged 18 (minimum age) to 23 years old. Many of the new students arrived in the European country as teenagers and were unable to adapt to Portuguese schools.
“Here they feel more welcome, they can talk about immigration experiences, share experiences”, says the coordinator. “Today, one of the biggest problems is linguistic prejudice with Brazilians, the discrimination of saying that Portuguese is not spoken in Brazil.”
At the end of the term – and sometimes even before that –, students can apply for a selection of job vacancies in partner companies, mostly in the areas of tourism and services.
Born in Petrolina (PE), Leonardo Ribeiro, 23, was a student in the last class of the supplementary course. In September he won one of these vacancies, in a large hotel chain. In Portugal since he was ten, he says he was unable to continue his studies at a Portuguese school for several reasons, including severe depression.
“The course was a game changer. I was completely frustrated in every way. It helped me get on with my life — even socially, to combat depression. I started getting out of the house, meeting people.”
The project was born in 2013, within a proposal by the Itamaraty, which was already developing something similar in Japan, where there is also a large Brazilian community. The initiative was named Encceja Portugal, in reference to the federal government test that guarantees the certificate: the National Examination for the Certification of Youth and Adult Skills.
In 2018, however, the Brazilian government stopped transferring funds to pay teachers. Since then, all educators have worked on a voluntary basis.
Although classes take place in a modern classroom provided by Universidade Lusófona, in Lisbon, the maintenance of activities has additional costs. Therefore, on several occasions, the coordinator ends up putting money out of her own pocket.
The amount previously passed on by the government was never enough for the professionals to dedicate themselves exclusively to the project, but the amount helped to pay for the ticket, food and other related expenses. In addition to photocopies and teaching material, students can consult books and reports in class. One of the parallel activities developed is precisely the so-called media literacy, helping students to better identify misinformation disguised as journalism.
Most of the faculty of 20 professors is Brazilian, but there are also Portuguese, one Italian and one French.
“It’s a project that has the power to transform lives”, says coordinator Rejane Lima, from Brasilia who has lived in Portugal for 20 years. Geography teacher, in addition to activities with the supplementary, she has another full-time job. “It’s tiring but rewarding.”
As the name of the course reveals, the main goal of the project is for students to obtain a certificate of completion of high school through Encceja. For three years, however, this has not been possible for those who live outside Brazil. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the assessment test has not been carried out for Brazilians residing abroad since 2019. Now, the exam is scheduled for this weekend.
Questioned by the report, Itamaraty did not say why it stopped funding the supplementary in Lisbon or if there is a forecast to resume paying teachers. In a note, the ministry limited itself to informing the date of the exam.
“The Consulate General in Lisbon will be the place where the test will be applied, as in the last editions, in response to the request of the local community”, completes the text.
Around 8,000 students have already gone through the project. According to coordination estimates, 70% of them managed to obtain the certificate. Several students went on to technical courses and some went on to university.
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