As Brazil enters a difficult phase of socio-economic and political turmoil, young people involved in a variety of social and political movements are constituted by and constitutive of broader social movements and transformations. In close collaboration with Brazilian colleagues, Dr. Michalis Kontopodis, from the School of Education has explored the emotional and affective dimensions of young people’s everyday lives across a wide range of contexts: from urban margins, to countryside and indigenous communities.

A group of narratives about these young people have been created for the Dr Kontopodis’s recently published volume, Facing Poverty and Marginalisation: Fifty Years of Critical Research in Brazil

One of these narratives concerns José (pseudonym), which we will share with you now:

José is there again, poorly dressed as usual. He looks up for a moment when I enter, then returns to his work. His patience has always been remarkable to me. He then moves quickly but lightly across the wooden floor, searches through a drawer, and takes what he needs; he does so without looking to me or the others in the room, quickly returning to his work. José is there almost every day — the work has now progressed, and notebooks with nicely decorated hardcovers have been produced. Marcia, the teacher, remains invisible for most of the time, but she sometimes might help for a moment or two, commenting on or arranging the newly made notebooks.

He is a 16-year-old student. Similarly to all other students — who are between 13 and 24 years old — José is offered a basic level of education that correlates more to what in other contexts would be primary school knowledge. About 100 students are registered, and half of them participate regularly. The school where we are is a quite well known school for homeless students in Porto Alegre, Brazil: the Escola Porto Alegre (EPA). This school is in many regards an open school (escola aberta): it is first of all open in the sense that a student is welcome at the school, but is not obliged to stay there. The school is also in many regards open for students who would elsewhere feel marginalized. It is open for the residents of the school’s neighborhood during the afternoon. It is open in the sense of its direct participation in the city’s councils as well its collaborations with many other institutions — even international ones.

Where José slept the night before is an open question: according to his teachers and his own narrations, he does not have a family, he does not have a home, and he does not currently belong to a certain gang or some other group that would provide him with food and security. When the school doors open for students, he goes quickly through the schoolyard to the rooms at the right to take a shower.

José has just received the amount of 50 Reais for the notebooks he sold through the school last month. He must still collect cans and other recyclable materials from the streets and sell them to supplement his income. I am not sure what his expenses are. He does not have a home and cannot afford a mobile phone; he gets food at the school, as well as some used clothes or other things that might be donated to the school from the neighbourhood.

Drug-dealing for male students and prostitution for the female ones are quite common activities among the students of this school — but not for José, who is very enthusiastic about the paper cover construction and is slowly creating a network of clients for his paper products. Perhaps some day he will earn his whole living with it. But before that it will be night again; the school will be closed, and the night is hard. I continue to observe how he cuts the paper: he looks like so concentrated; intense moments of silence pass by…

Further narratives as well as a close examination of a variety of Brazil’s contemporary educational and socio-political landscape are presented in the edited volume.
Further information:
Global :: Youth :: Crises :: http://mkontopodis.wordpress.com
Latin American Bureau: https://lab.org.uk