Al Jazeera | Tens of thousands accuse President Jair Bolsonaro of using education as a political weapon to advance his agenda.
Brazil’s National Student Union called for protests after the Ministry of Education said it was freezing nearly a quarter of discretionary spending due to budget restrictions across public services because of the current financial crisis in the country.
But scholars across Brazil accuse President Jair Bolsonaro of waging an ideological attack against education, and of using budget cuts to pressure congressmen to approve a much-anticipated but controversial pension reform.
“This protest is against what is happening at MEC,” said Celso Napolitano, president of the Federation of Teachers of Sao Paulo (FEPESP). “The cuts in federal universities mean a death strike in the scientific production in Brazil.”
Protests took place in 27 cities across the country. Online, the hashtag “education tsunami” trended throughout the day.
‘My weapon is my education’
In Sao Paulo thousands of protesters occupied the city centre for hours, chanting “Bolsonaro Out”, and holding signs reading “my weapon is my education”.
Marcus Vinicius, 19, was part of a large group of students from the University of Sao Paulo, one of the leading institutions in the country.
“The minister says we only party, then I want to invite him to come to our school and see what we produce every day,” Vinicius told Al Jazeera, referring to the Minister of Education’s statement that universities are in “shambles”.
Vinicius is studying public management and says his university has already made cuts to research, especially for post-graduates. “The ‘party’ we do is being here, protesting for education for our country, so that there is more inclusion, and people that really need public universities can have access to it,” he added.