Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Persecution in Brazil: Challenges and sufferings in the Brazilian homeschooling movement
Josue Bueno, his wife and their 9 children are ordered to submit to psychological treatment under social workers. Because of their homeschooling practices, state officials threaten to remove their children. They flee to Paraguay, where the Brazilian government sends a court official to warn them to return to Brazil and enroll the children in the school.
Cleber Andrade Nunes and his wife Bernadeth took his two teenage children from a public school to homeschool them. Astonishingly, the boys surpassed their peers and were approved for a law school with a high score. Nevertheless, their parents received the official threat: without a school enrolling, they will be jailed and lose the custody over their children.
Teaching children at home had always been a right in Brazil, because past Brazilian constitutions guaranteed it. For example, the Constitution of 1946 (Article 166) says, “The education is a right of all and it will be given at home and in the school. It should be inspired by the principles of freedom and in the ideals of human solidarity”. No Brazilian parent was threatened, fined or jailed for teaching children at home.
Yet, Socialist legislators insisted that there was a need for a new constitution. Under their inspiration and efforts, the current 1988 Federal Constitution was born, which says:
“The Government has the power to take a census of elementary school students, call them for enrollment and ensure that parents or guardians see to their children’s attendance to school”. (Article 208, paragraph 3.)
In 2001, Carlos Vilhena and his wife Márcia tried to challenge the compulsory school attendance Law by fighting in the courts. Mr. Vilhena was a famous attorney who wanted to ensure, for himself and other families, the right to homeschool. However, the Minister of Education, a communist, ordered his ministry to reject the request by Vilhena. The Vilhena case, which had received positive international and national coverage, eventually ended in the Superior Tribunal of Justice, where Carlos and Márcia lost and where justices declared, “Children don’t belong to their parents”. Being left with no choice, the Vilhena children were enrolled in a regular school.
The decision against the Vilhena family became a dangerous precedent, harming further legal efforts to make homeschooling legal again in Brazil.
Even so, many Brazilian families continue homeschooling and entering it.
Josue Bueno, a former Baptist minister, learnt about homeschooling in his youth years in the United States. Returning to Brazil, he attended a Baptist seminary, became a minister and, as soon as he married, he sought to live a Bible-centered family, where homeschooling was fundamental.
In America, Bueno had seen families freely educating their children. So he gave the same opportunity for his own children, who never attended a school since their birth. But his attempt to live the same freedom and Christian principles proved very costly. He remembers, “Because of false accusations, which were never proved, prosecutors ordered us to send our children to school. They also disagreed with our way to discipline our children”.
The accusations were made in 2005 to the Tutelary Council, a children protection service enforcing the Children and Adolescent Statute. They received citation to stand before judges and other authorities, because of homeschooling and child discipline. Then Mr. Bueno and all his family were ordered to submit to state psychological treatment and enroll the children in a school. After some time in such treatment, being greatly pressured (especially his pregnant wife) and seeing no human escape, they fled to Paraguay — exclusively to give to their children a Christian upbringing.
Mr. Bueno tells, “People talk a lot about respect and diversity, but our different way of life was not respected. I am sure that if my sons were homosexual and my daughters lesbian they would have an overwhelming state protection”.
It was a great suffering to leave Brazil, but greater sufferings forced them to such hard choice. Yet, their suffering did not end. The Brazilian government has discovered them and sent a court official to give them a citation to return to Brazil, continue state psychological treatment and enroll the children in a school.
Different from the Bueno family, Cleber and Bernadeth Nunes had not educated their children since their birth. He had known homeschooling in his visit to the United States. After much prayer and consideration, there was a decision and today he says, “Two years ago my wife and I decided to remove our two boys from the public school and take responsibility over their education. I ran a small business and at that time I downsized it because both of us are homeschooling”. His motive, as he told in an interview to BandNews (a national TV news channel in Brazil), is because “we do not agree with the education system”.
The BandNews program, which was broadcasted nationwide February 28, 2008, noted that Bernadeth left her university course on architecture for devoting herself to the education of their children. When journalist Adriana Spinelli interviewed the boys, Davi answered: “We like very much this method because we are free to study what we like”.
In their homeschool journey, the first effort of the Nunes family was to “unschool” their children.
After just two years, the results were worthy. Under the charge of education negligence by the Tutelary Council, Mr. Nunes tried to prove that there was no such negligence. So the boys made assessment tests to enter a law school. Davi, 14, was approved in the seventh ranking. His brother Jonatas, 13, got the 13th ranking. Their position was excellent, but the Tutelary Council, which has been harassing them since 2007, was unmoved.
In spite of the excellent educational scores of their sons, the Nunes family is under the official threat of losing the custody over their children and be jailed. They have a 9-month baby girl called Ana. Two voluntary and kind lawyers are fighting to defend the Nunes family against the state power opposing homeschooling.
Their problems began when someone denounced them to the Tutelary Council. As all homeschool families in Brazil, the Nunes and Bueno families had an underground homeschool life. When properly hidden, there is no danger, but often a relative, neighbor or an unknown individual intervenes to denounce to the Tutelary Council, which has dealt with all homeschool cases in Brazil.
This Council was created to implement in the Brazilian society the Children and Adolescent Statute, which in turn was created to meet the UN Convention on the Children Rights demands. As a signatory of this UN document, the Brazilian government was obliged to reflect it in the domestic laws. No Christian leader in Brazil was able to see its dangers, but today homeschool and Christian parents are suffering its consequences.
An evangelical minister told me that when disciplining his 10-year old, the boy threatened to denounce him and his wife to the Tutelary Council. When asked where he had learnt it, the boy answered, “in school”.
More and more evangelical and Catholic parents in Brazil have told me the same sad story. Other similar experiences show that evangelical families are being hardly hit by the UN-imposed legislation in Brazil.
The Tutelary Council and the Child and Adolescent Statute, which allege to defend children and their well-being, have been noted for their omissive role in the abortion debate and for not protecting children at risk of adoption by homosexuals. But they have no omission for homeschool families.
The Bueno family may be deported to Brazil and, as to the Nunes family, Cleber say, “We were condemned to pay a US$1800 fine and to enroll the boys back in school immediately. They threatened that we would lose custody over our children. They can even send us to jail if we keep disobeying them”.
The Nunes family, which is battling a radical anti-choice system, could consider fleeing to Paraguay. Yet, even in Paraguay the Bueno family is not free from tentacles from the Brazilian Tutelary Council.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Brazilian Government Prosecutes Homeschooling Family, Threatens to Remove Children
Authorities ignore failure of school system and amazing success of homeschooling parents
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman and Julio Severo
MINAS GERAIS, BRAZIL, March 6, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Brazilian family in the town of Timóteo, in the state of Minas Gerais, has been threatened with imprisonment and the loss of custody of their children for the “crime” of homeschooling.
The couple, Cleber Andrade Nunes and his wife Bernadeth Nunes, removed their children from public school two years ago, concerned about immoral influences and low educational standards.
The Nunes’ children showed significant improvement, so much so that they passed law school entrance exams with high marks. Their only problem is that at the ages of 14 and 13, they are not eligible for admission.
However, the success of the Nunes in educating their children has not impressed the socialist government of Brazil, which has ordered them to return the children to school and pay a fine equivalent to $1,800. If they refuse, the children will be removed from their parents’ custody.
The plight of the Nunes family is shared by others in Brazil who have taken the initiative to homeschool their children. Josue Bueno, a former Baptist minister, decided to homeschool his nine sons and daughters after learning about the practice during his adolescence in the United States. He was motivated in part by the desire to shield his children from immoral influences in the schools.
But his attempt to live according to his religious beliefs proved to be costly. He was accused in 2005 before the Tutelary Council, a child protective service. In the end Mr. Bueno and his family were ordered to submit to state “psychological treatment” and enroll the children in a school.
Their subsequent experience with the schools, however, has been a nightmare. “Our children were physically attacked by other students and even verbally humiliated by some teachers who made fun of them when they came to ask for help after being persecuted by their peers,” say the parents in a written statement.
“Ariel, our fourth child, was punished after reporting another student for beating her...She was taught in the classroom that a prostitute is a professional just like any other and should be respected. The school teaches the idea of evolution not as a theory, but as something proven. My oldest daughter was harassed by a female student who wanted to kiss her on the mouth, which she resisted.”
Ultimately the Buenos decided to flee to Paraguay, where they now live. But even there they were not safe from pressure from the Brazilian government. A court officer was sent to order them to return to Brazil and continue their “treatment”. Although the Buenos remain where they are, they are afraid that the Brazilian government might somehow secure their deportation.
“People talk a lot about respect and diversity, but our different way of life was not respected. I am sure that if my sons were homosexual and my daughters lesbian they would have an overwhelming state protection,” says Josue Bueno. “The school socializes them much more to violence, or disrespect, the values of a society that expelled God from its laws, from its schools and from its lives.”
In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com, Cleber Nunes said that the Brazilian school system is a proven failure, with low ranks given by domestic studies as well as by the International Student Assessment Program, which ranks Brazilian students at 57th worldwide in educational achievement.
He also cited disturbing statistics concerning social problems in Brazilian schools, including a study done in 2000 that found that 71% of students had suffered some kind of violence. He said that condoms are distributed freely in dispensers to students as young as ten years old, and that “sex education” programs in the schools are little more than propaganda for sexual license.
Nunes says that despite the amazing progress of his children and the comparative failure of public schooling, the courts have so far insisted that he must return his children to the local public school. When he showed them the law school test results, he says, “They ignored (them) and went on with the process. They said that the law must be fulfilled.”
However, unlike the Bueno case, the Nunes have received sympathetic attention from the national media, which has publicized the success of their homeschooling efforts. Nunes is confident that his children will not be taken from him, despite the negative verdicts, which he is appealing with the help of volunteer attorneys. “The reason they are pointing (to) is so ridiculous that the foolishness would be shown to the entire nation,” he says.
“I think it time for the Brazilian society to shout that the emperor is naked!” Nunes told LifeSiteNews.com, observing that the failure of the system has been well publicized.
Nunes says that he has received many emails from Brazilians supporting his cause, and that other families in his area are interested in home schooling as well. “They don’t know how to do it. That’s why we're willing to help people. Most of them think they can’t but the truth is that they don't know they can….There is no Portuguese material available. We want to translate some to help them.”
Nunes believes he will win, and is refusing to send his children back to school while he appeals the verdict against him. “I will fight until the end,” he says. However, if he loses, he acknowledges that a “as a last case” he will have to do what the Bueno family did: leave Brazil.
Cleber Nunes (he speaks English) can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org
Josue Bueno (also speaks English) can be contacted at: email@example.com
To contact the Brazilian Embassy:
Embassy of Brazil in the USA
3006 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Phone: (202) 238-2700
Fax: (202) 238-2827
Embassy of Brazil in Canada
450 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6M8
Phone: (613) 237-1090 or (613) 755-5160
Fax: (613) 237-6144
Embassies of Brazil to other Nations: http://www.embassyworld.com/embassy/Brazil/Brazil1.html