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 BrazilBy hosting both the Football World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games in recent years, Brazil put the focus of the world’s attention firmly upon itself. In the resulting spotlight, many Brazilian citizens took the unique opportunity to voice concerns to the Brazilian government, with the wider world audience looking on. Protests and reform movements abounded in the past decade as a rapidly widening middle class made unprecedented demands in Brazil’s increasingly mobile and globally integrated society.

Among these movements, students and teachers in Brazil banded together to protest deficiencies in an education system that has long underserved Brazil’s citizens. In 2016, protestors occupied hundreds of schools nationwide to bring attention to the country’s needs.

In response to the protests and upheavals of the past few years, governments at every level in Brazil are beginning initiatives to address educational shortfalls. In many areas, education reforms in Brazil look familiar to readers from the United States. Ideas like performance pay for teachers and turning school management over to private charter organizations are spreading throughout the country at a rapid rate.

Application of the new American-inspired techniques is inconsistent however, and most education reforms in Brazil are still too new to evaluate effectively. In particular, schools in large urban centers are innovating at a faster rate than systems in less developed areas of the country. Regardless, enthusiasm is high. Many of the movements are being fueled by the personal initiative of teachers, who are in some ways pulling their more conservative institutions forward with them.

Technology in Brazilian schools shows a similarly inconsistent yet hopeful picture. Schools in Rio de Janeiro, for example, are leaders in educational technology use in South America. In Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city, one nonprofit foundation leads an initiative to translate and implement the Khan Academy materials for use in Brazilian schools. This popular online curriculum and method now features in hundreds of Brazilian schools reaching over 70,000 students.

In addition to the visible presence of the popular video-based curriculum, officials at the Lemann Foundation are even more excited about the potential for the support material and quality measurement features of the Khan Academy method. They see these “back end” features as creating real lasting value for future advances in Brazil’s schools.

Still, regions outside of the country’s largest cities have not progressed as quickly. Internet speeds to schools in Brazil are one unexpected challenge. While Brazil is a world leader in mobile internet infrastructure, most connections to schools do not reach the 2Mbps threshold considered ideal for the delivery of online materials. Fortunately, one potential solution to this challenge is on the way. KALite, a compressed, offline version of the Khan Academy materials, is now being implemented in areas with less robust infrastructure.

Some of these tech-heavy initiatives are showing early signs of success. Brazilian students using these self-paced, interactive tools are more likely to show up to class, and anecdotal reports indicate a higher level of morale and enthusiasm as well.

Brazil instituted compulsory primary education in the 1980s, after the end of military rule. In many ways, that change was impressively successful. Literacy rates, for example, are far higher today than in the latter half of the 20th century, and enrollment has strongly improved. Still, educational attainment lags behind nations at a similar stage of development. Brazil’s education system is ranked 105th in quality out of 122 nations by the World Economic Forum.

As time passes, results from more structural changes will be seen as well, and time will tell whether the legacy of these education reforms in Brazil will garner the same attention as the sporting events that precipitated their beginning.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

brazil's economy
One month has passed since the international event that drew the world’s eyes to one country—Brazil. The World Cup came and went, and with the disappointing performance of Brazil in the semi-finals, the country has seemingly little to celebrate as the tourism funds fail to revive Brazil‘s economy.

The ruling power of Brazil shifts based on economic performance under the party, and with elections coming soon, current president Dilma Rousseff is facing the frustration of the nation. The failure of the Worker’s Party combined with economic distress and slumping growth could potentially mean the end to her party’s 12 year reign in office.

Rousseff’s voter tactics are far from complex: she’s simply begun throwing money at those who show signs of loyalty to her, such as the northern region of the country that benefits hugely from social welfare. Mixed reviews of such behavior are shown in CEO of DMS Funds Peter Kohli’s statement to Forbes: “During the last few months, Rousseff has been handing out cash to the poor in a blatant attempt to buy votes.”

This last-ditch effort to retain voters shows the financial promise many thought the World Cup would bring has fallen through, leaving the government with little left to show for themselves. The Wall Street Journal reports that the expectations for Brazil’s gross domestic product have suffered massive reductions: “[Economist] Mr. Salomon now projects the nation’s economy will expand just 0.7 percent, down from 1.7 percent.”

Already behind schedule for their next international hosting event, the 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s unclear whether Brazil will see the same luck with finishing production in the nick of time. For the World Cup, stadiums were unfinished as teams began arriving in Brazil, and with many speculating at the enormity of the Olympics, the sights are set high for the presentation Brazil offers.

Rousseff is facing a difficult crowd to win her next term, after being booed by thousands in the opening ceremony for the World Cup. She also faces scrutiny for her policies surrounding heavy government presence and intervention in the oil industries, partly contributing to the economic slow down seen in the lowered gross domestic product.

The vote is split so severely that when President Rouseff suffers a drop in the polls, the stock market rises. This is heavily denied by the Finance Ministry, but the numbers have continually proved otherwise.

Brazil did not expect a negative economic impact from the World Cup, but that is the direction they are heading in. In defense of the outlook for the Summer Olympics, Brazil successfully quelled the prospective riots that could have injured or frightened tourists, along with few major hitches during the actual event.

There is a possibility that Brazil will be able to turn it around in order to economically benefit from the Olympics. Time will tell as the next presidency is determined and reforms are in the making.

Elena Lopez

Sources: Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg
Sources: Bloomberg

Fresh off of his World Cup win, German soccer player Mesut Ozil has partnered with Big Shoe to help provide Brazilian children access to surgery. Initially, Ozil had pledged to support 11 surgeries, one for each player on the field, but he increased his promise to 23 surgeries. Each surgery signifies the effort of one of the 23 players of the German national team.

Ozil isn’t the only representative of the soccer world to support the organization. United States national soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann also voiced his support for the initiative.

Ozil is expected to donate his FIFA World Cup winnings, approximately $600,000 according to The Telegraph, to aid ill children in Brazil. Throughout the World Cup, the German national team bonded with the Brazilian people.

In the aftermath of the World Cup, many FIFA players have felt this same warmth and generosity toward the host nation.

The Big Shoe Initiative, which Ozil aligned himself with, was founded in 2006 around the time of Germany’s own World Cup. The organization relies on both donations and efforts of countless doctors in order to provide access to surgery for impoverished children. Ozil’s video campaign for the Big Shoe Initiative, a video now on YouTube and many social media websites, has helped garner attention for the nonprofit.

For its work in Brazil, the Big Shoe Initiative hopes to raise enough money to pay for 100 future surgeries.

The surgeries performed by the organization include burn and scar tissue removal, cleft palate corrections and congenital heart and limb disorders among others. The medical treatments are often either too expensive or too specialized for the regions in which the Big Shoe Initiative works.

The World Cup rejuvenated attention and support for the Big Shoe Initiative. Ozil’s generous donation, in particular, will help the organization begin to realize the potential of its coming impact in Brazil.

– Kristin Ronzi
Sources: Big Shoe, The Telegraph,  YouTube
Photo: The Telegraph

world cup
Destitute life in the slums of Rio de Janeiro has changed very little over the years. The streets may be currently adorned in green and yellow, but the quality of life continues to be the same.

1. The Most Expensive World Cup in History

The projected cost for hosting the games is more than $11 billion, which makes it the most expensive World Cup since it began 84 years ago. Citizens are complaining that the government of Brazil is spending so much money on the World Cup while many of its citizens are living in poverty. Paying for this World Cup has come out of these citizens’ taxpayer dollars.

2. Spent Billions of Dollars; Are There More Important Endeavors?

The money that was spent on the World Cup, on structures like stadiums and other sporting infrastructure, takes away from money that could have been spent on basic needs that many Brazilian citizens lack, such as education, better health care and adequate housing.

3. Corruption in the Brazilian Government and FIFA

The Brazilian government has been accused of overspending and corruption. The cost of building the Mane Garrincha Stadium came out to be $900 million, triple the original amount, largely due to fraud and corruption. FIFA, which has always been known for corruption, will be gaining all profits from the World Cup, while Brazil is paying the costs. The gains will not go to the people who really need it in Brazil, even though the Brazilian government has spent so much money on the World Cup. Many Brazilians can’t afford tickets to the games, or even afford to travel to protests against the World Cup, while their taxpayer dollars have gone towars paying for the World Cup.

4. Providing More Business For Sex Tourism

Sex tourism is encouraged in Brazil, and hotels and taxis are even part of the network that links clients with women and young girls. In Recife, one of the World Cup sites and also one of the poorest parts of Brazil, 120,000 soccer tickets were sold to foreigners. The women and young girls know that foreigners coming have a lot of money and “they come to Brazil to have fun.” A handful of sex workers have even taken English classes in order to negotiate better. The World Cup was originally sold to Brazilians as an economic boost because of the rewards of greater tourism. Unfortunately, one of the facets of tourism in Brazil is the sex industry, and this increase in tourism is perpetuating the sad cycle of abuse in the industry.

5. Encouraging Child Exploitation

Sadly, the sex industry in Brazil exploits children as well. Recife has one of the worst records in the world when it comes to child exploitation. In Sao Lourenço, where the Recife stadium is located, some of the street vendors not only sell food, but also their children for sexual exploitation. Child exploitation is so out of control in Brazil that officials are worried that tourists coming to Brazil for the World Cup will not respect their legislation on sex tourism.

— Colleen Moore

Sources: A.V. Club, WNCN, CBC, Philly.com, CNBC
Photo: Forbes

instability in kenya
What was supposed to be a community gathering to watch countries from all over the world compete in the World Cup turned into a bloodbath in a local bar in Mpeketoni, on the coast of Kenya.

Later events showed the men wielding the weapons were part of Somalia’s Islamist group al-Shabaab. The reasoning for their attack was that they were performing revenge killings due to the Kenyan presence in Somalia and the killing of Muslims there. It appears that the victims were of a specific ethnic group — the same one as the President — and all the Muslims were spared.

This is not the first time this part of the world has dealt with ethnic cleansing-based killings. Sudan has been experiencing such events for many years as well.

As the world progresses in what seems like a direction of acceptance and tolerance, events such as this, highlighting growing instability in Kenya, push it back. The 58 people who died for being a member of a certain ethnicity will receive no explanation for their death, and more often than not these events go under the radar of national news. This type of violation of human rights needs to be highlighted to show the presence of intolerance in so many nations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has suggested a different idea, theorizing that the shootings were not a terrorist attack but a politically driven attack. This musing has heightened the tension between Kenyan political rivalries and complicated the security levels of a region that is already on the cusp of descending into greater violence.

Many are concerned that Kenyatta turning the attack into a commentary on the government will damage the future of the security situation. “Politicians are politicizing the security situation and it’s not good for anyone,” said J.M. Waiganjo, a member of the Kenyatta’s jubilee party and member of parliament.

Other analysts see Kenyatta’s statement as a sign that Kenyan terrorists groups are targeting the weak spots in the government’s security plan and purposely drawing lines between the opposing parties to bring down Kenya’s government.

Kenyatta has a difficult duty ahead of him as he must determine an appropriate and beneficial way to handle the terrorist threats while building levels of security that are lacking in Kenya.

— Elena Lopez
Sources: BBC, CNN, WSJ
Photo: BBC

unicef

This year, UNICEF has been utilizing the global platform that the 2014 World Cup provides as a method to boost advocacy.

While it is true that the competition brings people together and has many positive effects on the nations involved, the World Cup will unfortunately also result in the rise of more sinister practices.

For example, global sporting events like the World Cup almost always result in a significant boost in human trafficking.

Judy Harris Kluger, an affiliate of the nonprofit Sanctuary for Families, describes this phenomenon: “On the most basic level, any location that sees an exponential increase in large numbers of men traveling for entertainment will receive a proportion increase in those who purchase sex.”

In Brazil, where this year’s World Cup is being held, prostitution for those over 18 is legal. Unfortunately, many of the people on the streets selling sex are children, and UNICEF is trying to do something about it.

In order to combat child trafficking, UNICEF Brazil has created an app called Proteja Brasil that allows users to report incidences of exploitation or abuse. Witnesses can use the application to document the time, details and location of incidents. This information is sent directly to the authorities who can respond immediately.

In addition to reporting the exploitation of children, the app contains detailed information about exactly what constitutes child abuse, leaving users better educated and more able to protect youth from harm.

Despite the fact that the World Cup means remarkably high numbers of people will be exploited in sex trafficking, UNICEF still sees the tournament as having the potential to create positive change, saying, “The FIFA World Cup is not only a great sporting event, but a powerful opportunity to share messages about the profound and positive difference sport can make in the lives of children. It provides a chance to focus positive public attention on the special risks children face in host countries like Brazil and around the world and the special efforts we can take to protect them from those threats.”

Hopefully UNICEF’s efforts to protect children during this year’s World Cup will be effective. The tournament is essentially a massive world stage which the United Nations is trying to use to for good.

The U.N.’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the first match of this year’s World Cup and released a statement that  highlights the tournament’s significance: “Sport has a unique ability to unite us, and to show us what we have in common…[The World Cup] is an occasion to celebrate the best values of sport: teamwork, fair play and mutual respect.”

— Emily Jablonski

Sources: Huffington Post, UN, UNICEF
Photo: UNICEF USA

world cup
June 12, 2014 marks one of the most exhilarating international competitions that spreads to millions of homes across the world. This year, the FIFA World Cup is taking place in Brazil. As a country that lives and breathes soccer, it makes a fitting choice. However, as the tournament draws nearer, more pressure and focus is being put on Brazil’s ability to step up to expectations.

In the midst of excited anticipation, Brazil has been faced with many threatening obstacles including strikes by police as well as government workers, causing fear that Brazil may not be ready in time. On the other side of the glorious soccer stadiums that will be filled with thousands of international visitors, lies the sprawling hills of favelas outside of Rio de Janeiro.

A favela is the Portuguese term for slum, and just outside of the bustling city center lies miles of low socioeconomic life, a juxtaposed sight to the nearby city. The contrast of life is extreme. As charter jets fly in holding national teams from participating countries, drug gangs still rule the favelas, not far from where foreign tourists will be staying.

Brazil has been making efforts to keep the areas under a state of control, implementing pacification programs. This effort may come too little too late, with CNN acknowledging “Rio’s favelas were neglected by authorities, considered no-go zones even by police” for many years, so the actions that began in 2008 when Brazil was announced host for the World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics were necessary long before action was taken.

Since the beginning of the pacification program, only 176 of about 600 favelas are monitored with any consistency, leaving much unknown to neighboring cities and tourists. While the program has helped decrease the number of violent crimes and murders in Brazil since 2008, 6,000 people are killed a year, turning Brazil into basically an active war zone.

The city of Rio lacks a sense of calm as the government scurries about trying to finish stadiums on time while maintaining a professional international appearance. As the World Cup begins, tourists swarm into the country and will send the government into high alert to maintain safety for such a high number of visitors who may be lacking understanding the severity of the situations in the favelas.

Due to the around the clock media focus on the World Cup, the reports are sure to fly in should anything go awry. The world is watching Brazil as it stands on unstable footing.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: Truth-Out, CNN, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, Real Truth
Photo: For the love of the beautiful game

While fans of the 2014 World Cup taking place in Brazil are counting down the hours until the opening kick-off, many of them remain unaware that another World Cup just happened. The CONIFA World Football Cup took place in Östersund, Sweden, with the finals occurring this past Sunday, June 8.

The CONIFA World Football Cup is designed to represent those players whose international teams aren’t recognized by FIFA. Many of them hail from breakaway regions or are of an identity that remains unrecognized by the international community at large. While all the teams wish to win the competition, many are simply seeking to raise awareness of what is taking place in their homelands.

A total of 12 teams were represented, including teams from the Isle of Man, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and groups of people who are Kurdish and Tamil. While 12 teams entered the competition, only one could be crowned champion. A team representing the County of Nice beat their opponents from the Isle of Man in the final, but one team garnered more attention than any other: Darfur United.

Darfur United is a team made up of refugees living in Eastern Chad, with members of the team being drawn from isolated refugee camps throughout the region. The team has rarely even played on a real field, let alone with a full 11 man roster. But with some help from i-ACT, a nonprofit organization based in the United States, the team was able to make the trek to Sweden. Even though the odds were stacked against them, the team demonstrated to the world the strength and resilience of those from Darfur in spite of the extreme poverty and war that has ravaged their homeland.

El Fatih Younis Haroun, the cultural ambassador for Darfur United, echoed this sentiment. “These poor refugees living in Eastern Chad camps could come and innovate in all international forums, particularly in the domain of sport, despite the troubles they are facing.” Goalkeeper Ismail Gamardin thought similarly: “Football helps us… we get to tell people about the situation in our camps. Otherwise nobody hears about us.”

Even though Darfur United was soundly beat by their competition, the team still didn’t go home empty handed. The refugees were awarded the cup for “Fair Play and Ethics.” With some hardware in hand and a considerable amount of awareness raised, the team went home as winners in the hearts and minds of all those who competed.

Andre Gobbo

Sources: Digital Journal, BBC, All Africa
Photo: NordicBet

prostitution-increases-for-world-cup
Prostitution has increased during the World Cup as Brazilian women are turning to prostitution for the lucrative duration of the competition, which takes place June 12 – July 13 throughout 12 cities in the host country. Five to 6 of Brazil’s top cities are the targets of these workers, many of whom took up prostitution just before the tournament started.

The women are reported to be taking English classes to converse with clients from English-speaking countries. Interviews with some of the prostitutes revealed that many of them, especially the younger women, have high hopes of being swept off to another country and a more comfortable lifestyle as the result of a transaction.

Maria, an 18-year-old student, stated to a journalist, “I’m here to find a gringo to take me away and give me a quiet life. I do not want luxury but just to live with a little more dignity and to help my family.”

England fans seem to be the biggest target for the girls who can be seen in brothels, near the beaches and amongst street vendors near the football stadiums, some even wearing English football team shirts.

While some of the women have dreams of being whisked away by a wealthy foreigner, all the women have their own reasons for taking up the profession, whether temporarily or permanently. Some women have seen an opportunity to earn extra money; some have a more severe need for the income.

One woman, according to social worker Cleide Almeida in Vila Mimosa, took on prostitution as a second job due to financial necessity after her husband passed away. It is legal for women in Brazil to sell sex if they are over the age of 18, but women as old as 77 are reported to work in the industry. Many foreign clients are looking for something they can’t get legally, however, and underage workers are often available by delivery to various hotels.

There are 120,000 sex workers in the state of Rio, and Almeida expects trade to double to 10,000 serviced men per day during the World Cup. Women are charging the equivalent of about $27 for a half hour of their time and $44 for an hour.

The World Cup is one of the world’s most celebrated occasions, and for good reason. Through competition, the football tournament unites nations for a month of good sport and excited nationalism. Whether increased prostitution can provide access to money for these women or not, the trend reflects bigger issues concerning demand for sex work and lack of other opportunities.

 — Edward Heinrich

Sources: IBN Live, Mirror OnlineLiverpool Echo
Photo: Flickr

soccer_stars
As John Oliver so eloquently stated, for any fanatical fan, soccer (or football) is not just a sport; it’s a religion, and the players are gods. They are symbols of faith and inspiration. They are the key holders of success, the gatekeepers of heaven. But unlike the biblical God, a glorified, elusive entity, these gods started from humble beginnings. It was indeed their supernatural gift that elevated them to deity. Here are five soccer “gods” that ascended to become soccer stars despite impoverished roots.

Rivaldo

Growing up in the northeast port town of Recife, one of Brazil’s most poverty-ridden slums, Rivaldo endured the hardship that comes with poverty. Due to malnourishment, he lost several teeth and was left bow-legged. His passion for football was his vehicle for prevailing through adversity. When he was 16 he signed his first professional contract with Paulistano and from then on, he rose to stardom. He competed in the World Cup in 1998 and 2002, helping Brazil reach the final round both years.

Pelé

One of the greatest legends of the game, Pelé too was raised in the unforgiving streets of Brazil. With not enough money to invest in his own soccer ball, he improvised by using a sock stuffed with newspaper or a grapefruit. Talent and grit were the ingredients for his successes. Throughout his career, he was elected “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and in 1999 was voted “Player of the Century.” Since his retirement, he has been a worldwide advocate for the promotion of soccer as a vehicle for change in developing countries.

Diego Maradona

Raised in the shantytown of Villa Fiorito, Argentina, Maradona shared one bedroom with all seven of his siblings. He did not receive any formal education; football was his only hope. In his astounding career, he played in four FIFA World Cups, was recognized for his “Goal of the Century” and was crowned FIFA “Player of the Century.”

Salomon Kalou

A current member of the Cote d’Ivoire national team, Kalou was raised in a nation in which 42.7 percent of citizens live below the poverty line. He rose to international prominence for his exceptional ability on the soccer field. Aside from serving as a figurehead of faith, he has taken an active role in inspiring his people and alleviating poverty. In 2010, he established the Kalou Foundation, which provides social services and recreation facilities for vulnerable populations.

Samuel Eto’o

Though he lived better than many in a country rampant with poverty, Eto’o began his career in Cameroon as a “street footballer.” He has since risen to be the highest paid player in the world, earning $17 million per year. His well-earned money goes toward his foundation, which funds development work in Africa.
These soccer stars have utilized their high profiles to inspire and ignite change. The good thing about the religion of soccer is that there is no hierarchy; there is no secret attribute that all of the gods possess. The most inspiring part of it all could in fact be the democratic nature of the sport. You do not even need a pair of shoes to pick up the game, or even a ball. You never know; bare feet and a ripe grapefruit could get you to big places.

 — Samantha Scheetz

Sources: BBC, Bread for the World, Sportskeeda, AA Registry
Photo:Next Pulse Sports