Brazil: Students Occupy University Building, Demand an End to Privatization of Education

Photo: Students on the steps at the Federal University of Parana (Source: A Nova Democracia)

By Ben Robinson

Between November 6 and 8, the Student Front Against Distance Education (Frente Estudantil Contra a Educação a Distância) organized a student strike and occupation of the Federal University of Parana’s cafeteria. Brazilian students are protesting the privatization of education, funding cuts, and the end of in-person classes at the university.

The student group identified distance learning requirements as a method the State is using to push privatization, as in Brazil, public universities are free for undergraduates, while private universities charge fees. Fascist president Jair Bolsonaro and the Brazilian government have been pushing funding cuts for public universities, students, and national research, and have blocked scholarship funding. The students’ actions answer a call from the National Executive of Pedagogy Students (Executiva Nacional dos Estudantes de Pedagogia) to fight against the government’s cuts.

Before the strike began, approximately 50 students at the Federal University of Parana protested on October 23 in front of the university cafeteria (known as the Restaurante Universitário, RU), which has been closed since 2020. The police attempted to prevent the protest from marching under the guise of COVID health measures, but the students successfully resisted and finished their march as planned. Protesters held banners reading “Against cuts: in defense of research and national science!” “Bar privatization with an occupation strike!” “For the reopening of RU! Down with the privatization of public universities!”

Video from the students’ occupation of the campus cafeteria.

The Student Front Against Distance Education led the students to occupy the university’s cafeteria on November 6, demanding its immediate reopening and the payment of student scholarships. Before the occupation started, students marched to the cafeteria, passing out flyers and hanging posters with their demands. While the police attempted to intimidate the protest, the students opened the locked doors of the cafeteria as the police stood by.

During the occupation, students served meals and organized workshops in the cafeteria. Students also held a screening of the documentary “Resistance!” that portrays a similar occupation strike of students in 2011, in which students won all of their demands.

Students held a democratic assembly and decided to end the occupation on November 8. The Student Front posted a statement on their social media in which they explained the decision to leave was to improve the organization, and that the occupation was a success. The statement calls for all students to occupy locations which they have a right to, and affirm that, “students can and will give orders to their schools and universities, taking on themselves the duty to defend public and free education.”

“We will come back stronger and more prepared!”

Showing solidarity with other struggles in Brazil, the students echoed the fight of the peasants in the countryside by leaving a banner which read “We’ll be back! Stronger and more prepared!” This slogan was left by peasants led by the League of Poor Peasants (LCP, Liga dos Camponeses Pobres) after breaking through a military siege at Camp Tiago dos Santos. The LCP fights against the latifundium (large landlords) in the Brazilian countryside, who mercilessly exploit and oppress the peasants, by organizing landless peasants to occupy land and create productive settlements.

The Student Front’s use of the LCP’s statement on their banner demonstrates the growing strength and unity of the revolutionary movement nationwide against the decaying and genocidal military government of Brazil.


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