ethnically and culturally diverse country

Brazil is located in South America and neighbors every country within the continent except for Chile and Ecuador. It has the largest number of Portuguese speakers in the world and is known as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world. Since the 1930s, immigrants from many countries have become the backbone of Brazil. Although the country’s growth does not necessarily cause poverty, there is a correlation between overcrowdedness and population growth in specific regions of the country that are poor. Here are seven facts about overpopulation in Brazil.

7 Facts About Overpopulation in Brazil

  1. Brazil is currently the most populous country in South America and the fifth-most populated country in the world with 212.41 million people. The current growth rate is 0.75 percent per year. Although the population is dense on the east coast, the central and western parts of Brazil are vastly less populated than these regions. Brazil is ranked sixth in the world in population density with about 24 people per unit area.
  2. Brazil is home to the most expensive cities in the Americas. In addition, São Paulo is ranked as the world’s 10th most expensive city and Rio de Janeiro is ranked as the 12th most expensive city in the world. Of note, 81 percent of Brazil’s population lives in urban areas. Purchasing an apartment in urban Brazil is estimated at $4,370 per square meter. Owning an apartment in these areas is more expensive than owning one in New York City, which is ranked as the 32nd most expensive city.
  3. More than 50 million Brazilians live in inadequate housing. São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, South America, the western hemisphere and is even the 12th most populous city in the world. Forty percent of Sao Paulo’s population experience poor living conditions and the poverty rate stands at 19 percent.
  4. There are about 1,600 favelas, or slums, in São Paulo and more than 1,000 in Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha is the largest favela community within Rio de Janeiro. Although the 2010 census reports only 69,000 people living in Rocinha, there are actually between 150,000 and 300,000 inhabitants. The population density in Rocinha is crammed with 100,000 people per square kilometer compared to Rio de Janeiro’s city proper 5,377 people per square kilometer.
  5. Communities like Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro also have high crime rates. There are roughly 37 murders per 100,000 people. In comparison, cities such as London have less than two murders per 100,000 people.
  6. In Brasilia, there are 25 million people who lack access to improved sanitation. Although the country possesses 20 percent of the world’s water, there are still 5 million people who lack access to safe drinking water. In addition, 83 million people who are not connected to sewage systems which have caused many odors and health risks. Habitat Brazil has been working to improve access to clean water for those families who live in extreme poverty. In order to solve this problem, Habitat Brazil is repairing and enlarging roofs and building cisterns for collecting and storing water. This will provide access to safe and usable water for hundreds of families. In addition, Habitat Brazil has constructed 30 water reservoirs. Each reservoir stores 16,000 liters of water. This makes it possible to capture the 200mm of rainwater that falls during the year.
  7. One of the top facts about overpopulation in Brazil happens to be the housing deficit which stands at between 6 and 8 million houses. Low-income families account for 73.6 percent of the housing deficit population. Projects such as the Sustainable Social Housing Initiative Project (SUSHI) and the My House, My Life Brazil Project (Habitat for Humanity) are fighting the country’s sustainability crisis. My House, My Life has already provided 2.6 million housing units for 10.5 million low-income Brazilians. It is currently building 685 houses in two states of Brazil. It is also expected that 100 families in Sao Paolo will have their houses repaired and improved through Habitat Brazil.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Teachers in Brazil
In recent years, the challenges of teachers in Brazil have become a focus of the Brazilian government. With the introduction of a new Plan for Education, issues such as a shortage of teachers, inadequate pay and teacher training and unequal access to education in the country are now receiving greater attention.

Yet, a recent outbreak of violence in the form of a school shooting, controversy on the teaching of particular subjects, and widespread teacher dissatisfaction continue to make the profession an unappealing one. The following are the top 10 facts about teachers in Brazil.

Top 10 Facts About Teachers in Brazil

  1. Many Brazilian teachers report feeling undervalued. A recent study has shown that nearly half of the teachers in Brazil would not recommend the teaching profession to students.
  2. Educational reforms have targeted teacher quality. The district of São Paulo has introduced systems to improve its teacher’s skills. For instance, teaching coaches are provided in every school. This initiative awards teachers and schools meeting annual targets. Additionally, ongoing training place greater value on education and provide teachers with positive motivation.
  3. Class sizes in Brazil have dropped by eight percent between 2005 and 2016. Additionally, many teachers in Brazil are working at two schools daily. This is due to a shortage of teachers in many communities. As a result, they teach in four-hour shifts with little time for lesson planning and study.
  4. Teacher education has only recently been standardized. Before 1996, teachers were not required to have a post-secondary degree and many had not attended college. Now, there is a requirement for teachers to obtain a degree and pass a national examination. As of 2010, 40 percent of all working teachers in the São Paulo district remain unaccredited. As a result, free courses are now available to teachers to improve practical classroom skills.
  5. Salaries for teachers in Brazil are below average. According to the OECD, in 2018, the maximum average salary for teachers in Brazil was $24,100 USD. This is in comparison to the average of $45,900 per year in surrounding countries. This places many teachers in a lower socioeconomic status. Additionally, in recent years, low pay has also contributed to several teacher strikes in Brazil, some that have turned violent.
  6. Teachers provide support for students living in poverty. In 2013, 2.7 percent of students in Brazil between 5 and 14 years old were working, rather than attending school. Of those, many also make up the 7.2 percent of Brazilians reportedly illiterate as of 2015. Historically, many Brazilian parents doubt the value of education for their children. That being said, teachers are urged to monitor student attendance and encourage parents to keep their children in school with government ‘Bolsa Familia’ incentives.
  7. The number of indigenous teachers in Brazil has grown. Brazil is home to about 900,000 indigenous peoples. Children in mostly rural indigenous communities are four times more likely to work rather than attend school. Over the last two decades, the Brazilian government has adopted a commitment to provide education to indigenous children in their traditional languages and using traditional methods. Indigenous schools are autonomous, but legally overseen by the Brazilian government and staffed by specially trained teachers from within the community.
  8. Following the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president in 2018, a right-wing movement called Escola Sem Partido or School without Party (ESP) gained ground. Responding to allegations that teachers have spread left-leaning propaganda in classrooms, advocates have called for a ban on the promotion of controversial political and social views in education. Critics argue that the ban violates constitutional freedom to teach and learn. Conservative legislator Ana Caroline Campagnolo has suggested that students report teachers in violation, resulting in a rash of police encounters in classes.
  9. Recent violence has led to the death of two teachers. In March of 2019, two teachers and five students were killed in a school shooting in a public school in Suzano. The incident was one of a handful of school shootings since 2000, which remain rare in Brazil but are causing concern about the security of classrooms and the safety of teachers and students.
  10. The use of technology as an educational resource is growing. Half of all Brazilian teachers reported using technology, particularly mobile phones, in lesson planning and gathering resources for the classroom. The number of educational resources available, including apps, pre-prepared lesson plans, and online videos, has significantly increased. The district of Sao Paulo issued a $5.5 billion BRL contract in 2013 for technology and educational content. Samsung, Unicef, and the Brazilian organization, Nova Escola, are among the companies gathering original content, providing online lessons and teacher training materials and targeting plans to improve student engagement.

The top 10 facts about teachers in Brazil indicate obstacles to improvement, but a growing effort. Reforms are being put in place to fund schools and increase the number and quality of teachers. These improvements show promise to both Brazilian educators and students.

– Marissa Field

Photo: Agustin Diaz

poverty_in_sao_pauloSão Paulo is a city left in the remnants of an economic development model that is contributing to a lot of the poverty in the city. The housing available for the impoverished citizens is run down and now over-populated. The conditions of the slums and favelas of São Paolo have worsened over time; however, conditions are beginning to show improvement.

São Paulo is one of Brazil’s most populated cities. It represents around six percent of Brazil’s total population with over 10 million residents. Unfortunately, Brazil has had a bad past when trying to house all of these residents equally and fairly. In general, the principal housing option for the poor is to build-it-yourself or the purchase of a house in an informal settlement.

Favelas are one of the places that the poor have to rely on when they have no other housing option. From 1973 to 2007, the amount of houses in the favelas grew from 14,504 to 377,236.

The dimensions of São Paulo’s housing problem demand attention and resources from both the federal and state government, but in recent years, the São Paulo government has become more attuned to long-term slum and favela upgrading. With the government playing an active role with aid from a global alliance, Cities Alliance, the city has been able to focus on improving the conditions of the slums and favelas.

In 2006, the São Paulo Municipal Housing Secretariat created management information system that is now able to track that status of favelas and other sites that need improvement. In 2008, Cities Alliance hosted high-ranking officials from other major cities to discuss the challenge of slum upgrading.

The legal steps involved in establishing a clear land title are hazy. There are also issues with squatters, people who occupy buildings without having lawful permission to do so. Landowners are worried that if they build, their buildings will become filled with squatters who will provide no compensation.

There is a change happening for the good in São Paulo. There is general agreement in São Paulo that the communities within these slums must band together and help turn things around. It is not just the government that can help. With community leaders that act as mediators that advocate for the community stepping up, São Paulo will continue to improve its housing conditions.

Erik Nelson

Sources: World Bank,  Cities Alliance
Photo: Favel Issues

Last March, two young Brazilians started a Facebook page called SP Invisivíl, or Invisible Sao Paulo, to highlight the large homeless population in the city.

The founders of Invisible Sao Paulo are Vincius Lima, 18, and Andre Soler, 21. Lima says the purpose of the project is to “open people’s eyes, and show them that people who live on the streets are human beings as well, that they have a story and they deserve respect and dignity.”

The Facebook page features a picture of one homeless person and a transcript of their story everyday. There are hundreds of stories on the page, ranging from horrific to heart wrenching, to humorous and to hopeful. The stories are diverse and unique, emphasizing the purpose of the project: to make the homeless seem more human.

One of the stories is that of Pedro Henrique, who is 33 years old. He grew up without a mother and father and has been on the streets for 20 years. He says, “Eu não nasci pra ser triste, faço de tudo pra ser feliz, mesmo morando na rua” or “I was not born to be sad, I do everything to be happy, even living on the street.” He carries a broken video camera with him because he says it makes him happy and reminds him of his time in Rio, when he shot films of skaters and surfers.

The project hopes to change the attitudes of people living in Sao Paulo toward the ever-growing homeless population. One resident of Sao Paulo, Luan Drezza, says that Invisible Sao Paulo “humanises people who we would have kept our distance from.” The Facebook page was set up to mimic Humans of New York, a project that shows stories of New Yorkers everyday.

There are an estimated 15,000 homeless in Sao Paulo, most likely the highest population of homeless in Brazil. Half of those are in shelters, but the rest are on the streets. Homelessness is also a problem in other urban areas in Brazil, mostly Rio de Janiero. A similar Facebook page, Invisible Rio, has started with the same purpose as Invisible Sao Paulo and has attracted a lot of attention in the city.

Homelessness in Brazil was highlighted during the FIFA World Cup this summer, when thousands of homeless in Sao Paulo protested their forced removal from buildings around the city and the expenditures the Brazilian government had taken on to build infrastructure for the event.

A group called Movimento do Trabalhadores Sem Teto, or MTST, helped and participated in the protests. They, along with other protesters, say that without them, all the outside world would see of Brazil was FIFA. MTST is a social organization founded originally to speak for landless rural peasants in 1997; it now focuses purely on urban homelessness in Brazil.

Brazil is also the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, which is predicted to cause more social protests.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, City Lab, The Guardian, Facebook, MST
Photo: Flickr

According to the World Health Organization, the polio virus has been detected in sewage samples near Sau Paulo in Brazil. The virus was discovered in a sewage sample taken in March from Viracopos International Airport and is possibly related to a strain isolated in a case in Equatorial Guinea. While no human cases have been reported in Sau Paulo thus far, it is clear that, nearly sixty years after organized eradication efforts began, polio remains a threat.

Polio, a potentially fatal virus, attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis. There is no cure for the disease but it is preventable through immunization. Brazil has been polio free since 1989 and the entire Americas region since 1991. This is the main reason why the recent polio detection in Sau Paulo is so troubling.

Recently, the polio virus has attracted attention internationally after decades of declining rates due to the increase in reported cases in recent years. After the virus reemerged in Syria this past October, many nonprofit organizations combined to form the Polio Control Task Force. This year alone, they have vaccinated 1.4 million children, using thousands of volunteers and focusing mainly on accessible areas in northern Syria. The case in October was Syria’s first since 1999, but as a result of the volunteers’ continued humanitarian efforts there have been no new confirmed polio cases in Syria in the past five months.

During a recent span, UNICEF and its partners successfully vaccinated 25 million children in seven countries throughout the Middle East. However, their efforts are often thwarted by regional instability and the threat of violent extremism against volunteers. Over sixty polio workers and security personnel have been killed in Pakistan since 2012. Accessibility has also played a role in failed vaccination attempts, as many communities in war-ravaged Syria have proven unreachable by volunteers. Tribal communities in Nigeria have also posed challenges to vaccination efforts.

In 1988 polio was in 120 countries, and it killed an annual average of approximately 350,000. In 2013 only 416 cases were reported around the world. All were contained in three countries.

Contraction of polio in the United States has been at a virtual rate of zero since 1979. However, the CDC recently recommended booster shots to Americans traveling to 10 countries where polio may still be active. Among those countries were Pakistan, Cameroon, Syria, and Ethiopia. While it is clear that the threat of polio has abated in the western world, its presence abroad continues to trigger fear.

– Taylor Dow

Sources: ReutersWashington PostTimeNew YorkerNBC NewsNation
Photo: Utah’s People Post

The book begins: “July 15, 1955. The birthday of my daughter Vera Eunice. I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for her, but the price of food keeps us from realizing our desires. Actually we are slaves to the cost of living.”

Carolina Maria de Jesus’s diaries were edited into a book called “Room of Garbage” (1960), which quickly became one of the most successful books in Brazilian publishing history. In Sao Paulo, 10,000 copies of the book sold out in the first three days and it has since been translated into 13 different languages, becoming an international bestseller. Despite her success, within a few years she would return to living in the favelas and would later die in poverty.

Carolina was born in 1914 to a single mother in Minas Gerais. After attending primary school for two years, she was forced to drop out. She wrote her diary entries while living in the favelas (slums) of Sao Paulo with her three illegitimate children.

After World War II, the number of favelas exploded in major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo due to mass migrations. Favelas were located on the unwanted lands left behind by urban development, often in the hills surrounding the cities.

A self-confident woman, Carolina refused to conform to social standards. She never married, and she expressed herself aggressively with sometimes racist views. Her diary entries describe her struggle to rise above poverty, living as one of the “discarded” and marginalized.

She collected paper, bottles and cans for coins, held various odds and ends jobs and scavenged in garbage bins for food to feed her children. Her stories, poems and diary entries deal with themes of poverty, loneliness, hopelessness and death. She writes of the racial injustice and discrimination heaped onto the poor and the blacks in the favelas.

She writes about political events and politicians with their empty promises to the urban poor, arguing, “Brazil needs to be led by a person who has known hunger. Hunger is also a teacher. Who has gone hungry learns to think of the future and of the children.” Many readers and critics were surprised that an uneducated black woman from the slums could eloquently write about politics, racism and gender discrimination.

In 1958, Audalio Dantas, a reporter for Diario da Noite, heard Carolina yell at a group of men on a playground, “If you continue mistreating these children, I’m going to put all of your names in my book!” Dantas convinced her to show him her writings and took them to his editor.

Although her book would reach international acclaim, many Brazilians criticized and ostracized her for her refusal to conform to social norms. Today, most Brazilians do not acknowledge her impact, only recognizing her as that “slum dweller who cracked up.” Why is Carolina Maria de Jesus important if her country refuses to remember her?

Her stories humanize poverty and hunger, bringing attention to the human lives behind facts and figures. She describes the pain of hearing her children ask for more food because they are still hungry. She writes about watching restaurants spill acid in the trashcans to prevent looting by the poor. In the favela, she had the “impression she was a useless object destined to be forever in a garbage dump.”

A quick search on the Internet can show you numbers and statistics about the millions of people living below the poverty line in the world, but Carolina’s words showed people “the meaning and the feeling of hunger, degradation and want.” To overcome global poverty and move forward with understanding and empathy, Carolina’s stories and the countless stories of others must not be forgotten.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: Latin American Studies, The Life and Death of Carolina Maria de Jesus, Notable 20th Century Latin American Women
Photo: Omenelick 2 Ato

Arco do Futuro
São Paulo’s visionary new mayor, Fernando Haddad, plans to elevate the city’s sprawling and overcrowded slums out of abject poverty by 2020. His goal is to improve the horrible living conditions of the favelas while also halting their insurgent growth.

The favela slums of São Paulo remain a brazen example of the poverty and income inequality that still lingers in Brazil despite its recent (and remarkable) economic growth. They serve as hotbeds for violence and crime as well as uncontained waste and rampant pollution.

In a campaign promise during last year’s election, Haddad created what will become the city’s main development plan named “Arco do Futuro.” This plan promises to provide more housing and jobs for the favela’s cramped and unemployed populations. He maintains that the improvements will occur as a result of economic growth, government funding, and demographic changes.

Previously, the government’s efforts to develop a 100-acre area around Luz, which is notorious for drug activity and known as Cracolândia, sparked intense protests within the community. According to Haddad, this was because the public did not trust the private companies in charge of the housing programs.

The mayor plans to allow members of the community to have a greater voice in order for the development plan to not be seen as a threat. He emphasized that giving individuals a greater sense of ownership would negate the negative feelings toward the project.

This mentality fits well with the message of the New Cities Summit, which was hosted by São Paulo this year. The message is this: “The Human City, placing the individual and the community at the heart of discussions on our urban future.”

The New Cities Summit, held in São Paulo this year echoed this idea as a way of developing solutions to the challenges of rapid urbanization. São Paulo was chosen to host last week’s New Cities summit because it faces many of the same problems as other metropolises across the developing world. If São Paulo can find ways to alleviate their problems of crime, pollution, overcrowding and waste, then the hope is that other cities can too.

By 2030, it is estimated that 60% of the world’s total population will be living in urban areas. Each year, a million people are added to this figure in China, India and the Middle East. Latin American countries have the highest percentage of urban populations with 87% of the population of Brazil living in cities.

“We need more just cities. Not just playgrounds for the wealthy, but cities where all people can thrive,” said John Rossant of the New Cities Foundation, “This is a global summit to look at problems facing cities in the 21st century, but also opportunities. There are lots of interesting solutions.”

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: The Guardian,New Cities Foundation,Estado Sao Paulo
Photo: Mind Map-SA