Launched in May 2019, Só Cria (Born and Raised), a community-based college entrance exam course in the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro’s South Zone, is free of charge and serves the residents of favelas Rocinha, Vidigal and others in the surrounding area. Classes are held at the school CIEP Ayrton Senna Educational Center and are taught by volunteer teachers covering entrance exams’ core topics.
The project emerged as a response to the concerns of a group of young people about how favela residents were included in academic spaces as well as about the possibility of developing class consciousness among them. Since then, they’ve met with members of Movimenta Rocinha, of the Popular Brigades, with the directors of CIEP Ayrton Senna, and with the school guild to discuss the importance of representation and the type of tools necessary for future education. Thus was born Só Cria.
At its opening ceremony, the group held a discussion on education, culture, and the favela with the presence of Seimour Souza from the N.I.C.A. (Independent Community Learning Group) in Jacarezinho, Antônio Firmino of the Sankofa Museum in Rochinha, and educator Mariana Reis. There were also poetry presentations from the Slam das Minas group and a wheatpaste poster workshop, allowing the students to resignify their school walls with important images from Brazilian history.
At the end of 2019, Só Cria received the Carolina Maria de Jesus tribute at Rio State’s Legislative Assembly (ALERJ) on International Human Rights Day. The tribute was an initiative of State Deputy Renata Souza to recognize the work of initiatives that are committed to the defense of human rights.
In 2019, the college entrance exam had its first student accepted into university: Korê Canela. Of indigenous origin, Canela, who is also known by her Portuguese name Noêmia, is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Rural Education at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ). Originally from the state of Acre but today resident of the Tabajaras favela in Copacabana, Canela moved to Rio two years ago because of a relationship and began working on Copacabana beach in order to stay in the city.
29-year old Canela is the first in her family to enter college. For her, being in a university setting is a dream come true. “It was through a friend who lives in Rocinha that I got to know about the college entrance exam. Ever since I’ve met the teachers I felt like I identified with the classes. My friend also helped and encouraged me to continue studying and I believe that this helped me dedicate myself to and eventually enter college. It was in the middle of last year that I decided to take the UFRRJ exam. The moment I saw my course of interest in the curriculum, I liked it and really wanted to go there,” she says.
The option of a Rural Education course, focused on training teachers to teach in rural and quilombola schools, to Canela is an opportunity to learn more about her own roots and power, in the future, to be a teacher herself providing education to indigenous people. Her people, the Canela, have found themselves dispersed after successive massacres, but she dreams of rescuing her culture.
Today Canela lives in the municipality of Seropédica, in Greater Rio’s Metropolitan Region, near the university. Canela, despite having a few years of study ahead of her, already thinks about her future after graduation. “At the moment, I am receiving support from my father and grandmother, who live in Acre and are very happy with my accomplishments. When I graduate, I want to return to my state and share everything that I have learned during this period with my people, as a way of expressing my gratitude as well. This interaction and exchange of knowledge is very important.”
Lucas Almeida, a 26-year old engineer and resident of Rocinha, is one of the creators of the college entrance exam prep course. For him, the initiative is of extreme importance for the community. “It’s an enormous pleasure to teach in a favela college prep course. Our first student accepted is an indigenous woman with the dream of returning to her roots and becoming a teacher. The satisfaction of having a student like Korê, who is very committed and willing to learn, is indescribable,” says Almeida.
He also talks about the project being a starting point for residents to continue their studies through an advanced degree. “We are talking about a community of more than 120,000 people [Rocinha]. How many different talents do we have here? Countless, definitely. For them, the Só Cria project becomes another opportunity to achieve a better and dignified life. We understand that real change should be focused on primary and secondary education, but we remain strong, and continue to build hope with the students and a path to follow their dreams. The entrance exam is not easy, but the possibility to have more people in university thinking collectively about ways to improve life within the favelas and peripheries, is extraordinary.”
Amanda Trojahn, a 22-year old sociology teacher and one of Canela’s main supporters, feels grateful to have created this bridge for new university students. “She signed up as soon as we started the course. It’s a significant achievement, mainly because she is of indigenous origin, and was living in a favela here in Rio. The course that she chose also symbolizes resistance. I was a student at Rural as well and this feeling of having helped is wonderful. Now, we at Só Cria are even more motivated to continue with the project and to help other people to study in and occupy these universities,” she says.
For 2020, registration for both students and volunteer teachers has already ended. Those who have signed up for classes should pay attention to their emails, where they’ll receive calls for interviews.