A 16-year-old Brazilian girl has given evidence to a Senate committee analysing the impact of deep government cuts in education funding.
Ana Julia Ribeiro has become a media sensation after the speech she made to legislators in her home state of Parana defending student rights went viral.
Hundreds of schools across the state have been occupied by students angry over government’s plans to freeze education funding.
The protest has spread to other states.
Ana Julia was applauded when she criticised the government’s education plans during the session at the Commission for Human Rights in the Senate.
She has been compared online by Brazilians to the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
In an interview with the BBC, she said she didn’t know that the comparison had been made, but she liked it.
“How incredible! Malala is something else, her campaign is wonderful.”
Ana Julia gave her speech to legislators in her home state of Parana last week in the midst of student protests in about 1,000 Brazilian schools.
Parana has been most affected by the sit-ins that started in early October and has over 800 schools occupied.
She began her address with the question – who is school for? She went on to defend the student occupations as legal and legitimate.
The occupations have been criticised for closing down school buildings used for annual examinations.
A conservative, right-wing organisation, the Movement for Free Brazil (MBL), and some parents and teachers have demanded the protesters leave.
Some have argued that the secondary students are being politically manipulated by left-wing politicians to put pressure on the government of President Michel Temer and on the governor of Parana.
But Ana Julia said in her speech it was an insult to the students to say they had been indoctrinated.
She said they were defending their education and they had a right to protest against the government’s plans to freeze education funding for 20 years.
She said the students read the news carefully and debated their response to what was being said about education.
She argued that a controversial government programme, “schools without political parties” which forbids political discourse in the classroom was an insult to the capacity of students to think for themselves.
Above all, she said, students should be consulted on what kind of education they wanted.
Many left-wing supporters in Brazil are deeply disillusioned with politics after the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff and the discrediting of her Workers’ Party.
This week the austerity measures aimed at freezing investment in education for the next two decades go to the Senate, after being passed by the lower house of Congress.
Source : BBC http://buff.ly/2eq4Zs6
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