Education in the quilombola1 communities
of Pernambuco reflects the general problems of Brazil´s
school system. While the Ministry of Education states that
close to 97% of the Brazilian children ages 7 to 14 have access
to education, there is no precise data for the quilombola
children. It is still common to see children and teenagers
out of school, as well as illiterate adults. Schools are in
very precarious conditions and they do not include cultural
differences in their curricula.
Education in the Quilombola Communities
Josefa da Silva*
The state of Pernambuco has a population2
of 7,918,344. Of these, 6,058,249 are residents of urban areas
and 1,800,095 live in rural areas. The afro-descendent3
population represents 67% of the total. Despite the fact that
afro-descendents are the majority of the state's population,
the Index of Human Development (IHD) of the United Nations
(from October of 2003) reveals that there is a gap between
blacks and whites, as presented in the chart below.
between blacks and whites in Pernambuco
Index / Blacks / Whites
IDH / 0.671 / 0.749
Life expectancy / 66.7 / 66.5
Income per capita / 127.20 / 264.63
Average years of schooling / 4.34 / 6.05
Illiteracy between the ages 7-14 / 24.72% / 17.75%
Illiteracy among those 25 or older / 32.63% / 22.34%
Source: PNUD 2003 4
is evident that the social and economic heritage of slavery
still marks the lives of black people, even 115 years after
it ended. This data does not show the specific inequalities
suffered by women and quilombolas. However, it is known that
they suffer discrimination in Brazilian society and that they
have organized to fight back. And yet, such organizing and
resistance have not made it possible to ensure their rights,
such as the right to education and the ownership of their
land, as the condition for the survival of future generations.
Brazilian culture, resistance to subordination is related
to the pursuit of freedom of expression, the right to life,
health care, education, and political and social justice.
The resistance of afro-descendents to the slavery regime made
possible the construction of quilombos, and among them the
quilombo of Palmares, which existed for over a century and
became a reference point for political and social organization.
quilombolas and education
are over 40 quilombola communities in the state of Pernambuco.
At the Second Gathering of the Quilombola Communities of Pernambuco
in May of 2003, one of the conclusions was the need for an
accurate diagnosis of the social, economic, political and
cultural situation in which such communities exist, and of
their main needs in order to propose public policies.
in quilombola communities of Pernambuco reflects the general
problems of education in the country, only worse. While the
Ministry of Education states that close to 97% 5,
of Brazilian children ages 7 to 14 have access to education,
there is no precise data for the quilombola children. It is
still common to see children and teenagers out of school,
as well as illiterate adults. For the quilombolas, the right
to education is still an aspiration. Schools (when they exist)
are in very precarious conditions and they do not include
cultural differences in their curricula.
order to change this situation, it would be necessary to ensure
the access and permanence of quilombola students in schools;
to value and bring back the culture of their communities;
to formulate and implement educational public policies based
on their own interests and needs. It is essential to recognize
that valuing the ethnic differences in the realm of education
strengthens the communities. In fact, it would contemplate
the cultural diversity that exists in the country.
not possible to develop a multicultural education dissociated
from the struggles of quilombolas in Brazil. This means "to
acknowledge, observe, and analyze a peculiar way of looking
at life, the world, and work; of living together and fighting
for dignity for oneself as well as for all the descendents
of Africans, and even more, for all those marginalized by
society. It also means to know and understand the work and
creativity of Africans and their descendents in Brazil, and
to recognize their production in the construction of the Brazilian
nation", as Petronilha Silva said.
educational proposal of Conceição das Crioulas
If you want to know who I am
If you want me to teach you what I know
Stop being who you are
And forget what you know 6
in the quilombola communities of Pernambuco is under generally
adverse conditions, but there is an experiment in development
in Conceição das Crioulas that indicates that
change is possible. To further develop this process it is
necessary that the community becomes the conductor of its
own development and put into action the means to ensure its
experiment of Conceição das Crioulas - a community
of almost 4,000 people - begun in 1996 with a research conducted
in eight municipalities of the state, including Salgueiro,
the town where the community is located. The process to define
an education that takes into consideration the quilombola
reality, based on its ethnic sense of belonging, has been
under construction for over a decade by the teachers of Conceiçao
2003, the Quilombola Association of Conceição
das Crioulas (AQCC), in its institutional plan, created five
issue-oriented committees 7 to improve
its work. One of them was the committee on education, which
has been holding monthly meetings to discuss theoretical basis
and methodologies to elaborate a differentiated curriculum
proposal The law 10.639/03, signed by the president on January
9 of 2003, which amends law 9.394/96, included a mandatory
subject of Afro-Brazilian History and Culture in the national
official curriculum of the school system.
of the law supports the legal construction of a specific proposal
of education for the quilombola communities.
investment of the community of Conceição to
advance in the educational field has been a priority and makes
the community a reference for others in the National Commission
of Quilombola Communities (CONAQ). The community has a number
of schools serving the quilombolas; the principals come from
the community itself, as well as most of the teachers. In
2003, 22 teachers entered higher education, and some are getting
ready to start graduate studies.
August 2003, a traditional community celebration included
a cultural event set up by the Luiz Freire Cultural Center
and the Gesto Cooperative from Porto, Portugal. The event
mobilized artists 8 to exchange experiences
in theater and fine arts, and brought the Majê Mole
Afro Ballet from Olinda for dance workshops, as well as the
first African History workshop 9. The
workshops highlighted the importance of including the teaching
of African history in the Brazilian schooling program, "because
the current formulas are very harmful to Brazilian and afro-descendents'
identity, as well as to the understanding of democracy and
and education, as Forquin 10 says, are
inseparable and the result of the culture workshops caused
an enormous impact within as well as outside of the community.
the reproduction of euro-centrism is a fundamental condition
to build respect of diversity within our society. To think
and to practice education in the quilombola communities, there
is a basic requirement: to know how to listen and to be sensitive
to the educational needs of children, youth, elders, leaders,
women and men rooted in the most diverse cultures, "because
those who are wise recognize that different nations have different
conceptions of things" 11. One
of the challenges we face as a society is to be able see the
world with multiple eyes - the ones that are similar and the
different ones, and envision a new possibility of an existence
where respect for others is the base of living in community
BRANDÃO. Carlos Rodrigues. O que é Educação.
Ed. Brasiliense. São Paulo. 2001.
Educação Trabalho e Pobreza. Centro de Cultura
Luiz Freire. Nov. 1996. Olinda.
Henrique Jr. África-Brasil no Pensamento Escolar. Kàwé
Pesquisa. Ano I-
nº 1 - jan/dez. 2002.
Jean Claude. Escola e Cultura.Porto Alegre. Artes Médicas,
do Commércio. Caderno Cidades. 26.09.2003. Recife.
de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação. Brasília.
Dezembro de 1996.
Vanda. Ilê Axé. Vivências e Invenção
Pedagógica: as crianças do Opô Afonjá.
Delma Josefa. Afrodescendência e Educação:
a concepção identitária do Alunado. Dissertação
Mestrado. Centro de Educação. UFPE. Recife,
Petronilha Beatriz Gonçalves e. Aprendizagem e Ensino
das Africanidades Brasileiras. Rio Grande do Sul. 1995.
Delma Josefa da Silva is a sociologist with a Masters degree
in Education. She is a participant of the Local Development
Program of the Luiz Freire Cultural Center.
Quilombolas are those who are part of a quilombo, or a community
founded by runaway slaves. Under the 1989 Constitution, descendents
of the original quilombolas have been granted the same status
and protections reserved to indigenous populations.
Census IBGE 2000
Includes blacks and mixed race.
Jornal do Commércio. Caderno Cidades. Page. 4 . Recife,
In Ilê Axé. Vanda Machado
The other four commissions are: Heritage, Health and Enviroment,
Income Generation, and Communication
Mônica Farias and Iva Mariana (Fine Arts students from
the University of Porto) and Rogério Manjate (Mozambiquean
writer and actor, winner of the 11th Guimarães Rosa
Contest, and of the Latin Union price pf French radio International
Workshop led by Henrique Cunha Jr., UFCE professor.
Jean Claude Forquin. School and Culture
Carlos Rodrigues Brandão in What is Education.