"The programs introduced in your two terms returned to "my kids" from the periphery the desire to study and become a "doctor""

Rio de Janeiro, April 9, 2018

Dear President (not "ex-"!) Lula,

I am a Portuguese teacher, and, since 1986, I have spent my career working with teenagers in the private and public school systems of Rio de Janeiro. Today, retired from elementary education, I teach at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), where I train new teachers.

Why do I begin by discussing my professional life? Because that is what kept me from being just another alienated person without any political positions, without understanding what social justice really is. Working in public schools at the margins of the city, I was able to see the impact of affirmative action policies implemented and expanded during your administration on the lives of my students.

In 2005, when I went to work at Pedra de Guaratiba, I did not see in my students a desire to carry on in their studies. Many did not even contemplate attending middle school. Whether due to familial need, or the desire to have their own money, they settled for being fare collectors on public transportation or baggers at supermarkets. I want to make clear that I am not being elitist or prejudiced since any honest work is dignified and deserves respect. But I was dealing with young students and comparing them to those from private schools who by age 15 wanted to "conquer the world" through their studies. Why didn't public school students feel that way? I don't need to enumerate the reasons as you know them well.

Well, the programs introduced in your two terms, later maintained by President Dilma, returned to "my kids" from the periphery the desire to study and become a "doctor," that is, to move ahead with their education, many, if not all, of them becoming the first in their families to attend a university.

I want to tell you, Lula, that from that point on, the general complacency, the acceptance of the status quo changed little by little and, with each class, every debate about different linguistic and social contexts, every lesson about the proper use of language and how empowering this knowledge can be, I could see the eyes of every student brighten. That haziness that was there before slowly dissipated, as I always told them that now it was not only possible but probable that they could attain their dream of completing a technical course at a quality public school or to pass the entrance exam and even attend an excellent public and free university. No, many of my colleagues and I could not make it so that all our students transformed. their dreams into reality but, as I always said, if I could make one of them carry on, my whole career would have been worth it.

Lula, our dream, or better yet, the project for a more equal, plural Brazil without hunger, without children out of school, is not over. It has just suffered a setback, but that only feeds our desire to move forward believing that this is our duty, it is in our hands and we must honor it when we wake up every day. The project of making young people continue to believe in themselves, knowing that only quality education can set them free, remains alive, and now I see that same glimmer in the eyes of my university students, in the Letters course at the college of teacher training at UERJ.

With my respect, affection, and admiration, I now bid farewell.

A kiss and a strong hug,

Retired teacher of the public school system of Rio de Janeiro

Professor of Portuguese language at FFP/UERJ

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