A wave of protests took over Brazil in June this year. It all began because of an increase in transportation fares in Sao Paulo, which Brazilians interpreted as the last straw of governmental injustice. The protests gained voice and strength as the population broadened their complaints to encompass political corruption, lack of investment in infrastructure, transportation, healthcare, education, and other such issues.
Some Brazilians denounced the upcoming World Cup, expressing their disappointment with the government’s $13 billion dollar investment on the event despite the government’s claims that the country lacks resources to invest on education and other crucial sectors.
What would have happened if the money invested in the World Cup had been spent on public education?
According to Daniel Cara, coordinator of the National Campaign for the Right to Education in Brazil, 3.7 million children and teenagers do not frequent school despite a recent constitutional amendment that declares all minors age 4-17 must be enrolled in school by 2016.
The Brazilian education system has many flaws, but the most urgent is its capacity: without sufficient slots, it is impossible to send every child to school. Thus, the first step is to multiply the amount of educational institutions across the country. According to Cara, Brazil is short of 5,917 preschools, 782 elementary schools, 593 middle schools, and 1,711 high schools.
The construction and equipment for these schools would cost $11.3 billion dollars. If the money invested in the World Cup were instead spent on building the necessary schools to provide space for every Brazilian child to enroll in school, there would even be a surplus that could then be invested in improving the education system, considering issues such as book supplies, teachers’ salaries, etc.
Of course, this investment is not sufficient to fully enhance the faulty education system, but it’s a start. Cara points out that Brazil needs to invest $180 billion dollars over ten years to address all its issues. The government claims to currently invest a little over half of that amount, and the system is still far from even having space to accommodate every prospective student.
If Brazil is so far behind in educating its population, and considering that this is one of the many current urgent issues – think of healthcare, basic sanitation and proper living conditions, safety and public transportation – it does not make sense for the government to spend billions of dollars in throwing not one, but two major parties in the next four years: the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
After trying to comprehend the Brazilian government’s rationale to justify such decisions, the protests that are still shaking the country seem justified and needed. Brazil must prioritize the improvement of its public education system by first expanding it enough to accommodate all children who depend on it. But the World Cup, barely affordable to a great part of the population, takes priority. Meanwhile, the people wait.