Revitalizing education in rural Brazil
Previously it was another rolling hill on the outskirts of Poço Fundo – soon it will be the site for a brand new school.
The school, called the Centro Educacional Cooperfam (CEC), is being built through donations from Café Bom Dia. It will replace the ramshackle collection of yellow buildings the local teachers' co-op has rented since 2005.
And not a moment too soon, said the CEC's director Maria Aparecida Avelino. The current school is small, old, and not even their own, Avelino said. The new place will be state of the art and six times the present size.
"We have no place for physical education, the kids have to cross the road to go to the municipal gym that is loaned to us. We have no balls, nets, sports equipment. These problems will be resolved when we move into the new school. There we'll have everything."
The CEC is a cooperative education project started in 2004 by 33 teachers who each paid 100 reais (then around $40) to join. It opened its doors in January 2005 to 150 pupils and it quickly gained a reputation for its high standard of education.
Currently it has 190 pupils aged from three to 18. One in five of those students has a parent in the Coopfam co-op, one of the region's biggest, with 215 families.
Those kids pay a quarter of the regular tuition fee, thanks to a special discount.
When the new school opens the number of students will double and Avelino hopes they will increase the portion of kids affiliated with Coopfam. She is confident that will happen thanks to Café Bom Dia's active participation in the project.
"Since they saw the school they understood our philosophy and the way we value the environment and the land and the people who work it," Avelino said of the company. "They got it. This is happening because of Café Bom Dia. They come here and help us, they are here for us, they show us what can be done. It wouldn't exist without them."
Perhaps most important of all, it will lift the self-esteem and confidence of parents, teachers and pupils.
"I am very excited, sometimes I can't believe it," Avelino said. "I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me. The work of teachers in small towns is not valued, we didn't think that we'd ever have an opportunity like this. This gives us hope."
Workers laying bricks for the new school classrooms