Residents of Rio’s favelas generally have minimal education or access to the formal labor market. Due to high levels of violence, there is a shortage of primary schools and qualified teachers prepared to work in the slums. Complexo da Maré (complex of 16 favelas outside Rio) is dominated by three rival drug factions who impose their own arbitrary law on the population and are in constant territorial armed disputes, making the public security conditions unpredictable and dangerous. 30% of the total population of Maré is between the ages of 1-14. Of those (and despite 92% being enrolled in public school) only 16.5% finish elementary school and only 2% finish high school.
Projeto Uerê (Uerê), founded in 1998 as an afterschool program in the favela of Baixa do Sapateiro, uses an alternative teaching methodology that specializes in children with constant traumas caused by several types of violence, leading to severe learning difficulties. The methodology focuses on the concept of emotional intelligence, brain plasticity, speedy storage of information, and a very simple way of explaining curricular contents. Uerê has received international recognition as a model school. Its methodology has become widely recognized by the governments in Rio and Recife (it was selected as a model alternative pedagogy by a partnership between Rio de Janeiro Municipality and UNESCO), and is being adopted by many public schools.
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