RIO DE JANEIRO – Hundreds of students and professors protested against public education funding cuts outside a military high school in Brazil on Monday where far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was attending a ceremony.
Bolsonaro’s ultraconservative government sparked outrage last week when it revealed at least 30 percent cuts to the annual budgets of federally funded high schools and universities.
Holding posters warning the reductions would leave Latin America’s biggest country “rich in ignorance,” protesters crowded outside the main entrance to the state-run Military College of Rio de Janeiro, forcing Bolsonaro to leave by a side exit.
“This will greatly jeopardize Brazil’s science and technology for an entire generation,” Katia Barbosa, a 57-year-old professor at the Fluminense Federal University, told AFP.
Some former students of the military school made a heart sign with their hands as they paraded past the president, who was flanked by Vice President Hamilton Mourao — an ex-alumnus — Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Wilson Witzel and Mayor Marcelo Crivella.
But others gave Bolsonaro the thumbs-down signal in an apparent show of solidarity with the protesters outside.
Public education was under “attack” and the cuts would “freeze public education, research and technical education,” Maurilio Torres, a university student, told AFP.
State-run military colleges would not be affected by the funding cuts because they come under the defense ministry, not education, G1 news site said.
Bolsonaro said previously his government had been considering cutting public funds allocated to philosophy and sociology departments in universities.
“The goal is to focus on streams that generate an immediate return to the taxpayer, such as veterinary, engineering or medical studies,” he said.
Since assuming the presidency in January, Bolsonaro has been on an ideological campaign to promote his ultraconservative ideas and values, and to erase any trace of the 2003-2016 leftwing government Brazil had.