EDUCATION AND CULTURE
IN SEARCH FOR NORMAL LIFE
18 year-old Júlio César Salgado is part of the group of young people from Bento Rodrigues who have been having a hard time in maintaining contact with friends as they were relocated with their families to houses in Mariana. His life, with a big enough change just by being an adolescent migrating to an adult world, has become even more challenging. “The destruction of my community and the moving to Mariana have forced me to grow up, to be more mature and taught me how to take on responsibilities. I have concluded my education and just turned 18. Actually, I never imagined my life outside of Bento Rodrigues. Not even going to university was such a big dream before”, he says, and his heart is now divided between studying Physical Education and Law, a new interest that has emerged after the dam episode.
Júlio César Salgado by Ricardo Correa
“My life in the old Bento was good. I was free, there were fruits on the trees and today we have to buy everything in the city. We used to swim in the rivers and waterfalls. In addition, my friends were always nearby and now we live far from each other. I really miss that contact. Everything there was easier, including having a job. I used to weed for others, help on a construction site and things alike. In the city, in order to have a job you must have experience. But how can I find a job if I have never had a formal job before? he asks. Even with the possibility of studying in Ouro Preto, Júlio César wants to return every weekend to the New Bento, once it is rebuilt”. “The worst of all, in addition to the tragedy, was to have been prejudiced against. Many of us have already been accused by residents of the city that it was our fault that Samarco has not resumed its operations. Who doesn’t want the company to get back to work? We all want this, but with greater responsibilities to avoid tragedies like this one.”
Júlio César is one of the 103 kids from the student community that includes Bento Rodrigues, Paracatu, Gesteira and Barra Longa that had to be referred to other schools in Mariana and Barra Longa, in collaboration with the Municipal Secretariat of Education.
The main focus of the program was to get primary, elementary and high school students back to school, offering them psychological and pedagogical monitoring. All schools that have been directly affected are back to their activities
in temporary facilities by now. Gustavo Capanema Municipal School, in Gesteira, has been fully remodelled and since the beginning of the school year of 2017 has been welcoming its students back.
A 3.2 meters high panel with artworks done by the students and teachers stands at the school entrance, and exhibits their expectations for the space in the form of drawings.
With a broader look, we believe that young people have, through natural conditions, a transforming potential and we want to create conditions where they can, in the medium term, feel motivated and able to think about the future that they want to build on the territory they occupy. This process had already begun, although experimentally, in February with a group of young people from Bento Rodrigues who experienced all the difficulties of adaptation described by Júlio césar. Right now, our goal has been to include young people from Mariana to promote integration and thus promote room for dialogue and co-creation. We want to stimulate a new look, expanding the field of view, the perspectives and awaken this collective transforming force. Accordingly, they will have more opportunity to assume a major role in the recovery of the regions in which they live.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RECONNECTING PEOPLE AND NATURE
The impact of the dam breach has also generated the opportunity to carry out actions that integrate the environmental vision with a broader approach for education. We believe that it is necessary to re-establish people’s connection with nature. In most of the territory, this loss of perception of cause and effect is directly related to the use of the land and the degradation of the rivers. Thus, we have identified partners that bring new ways of working with children, generating experiences, discoveries and interactions that can awaken in the new generations a more comprehensive look at the relationship with nature.
This is a demand that is also present among the communities. “If I could make a suggestion to Renova, I would tell the team to concentrate on projects for recovering the biodiversity of the Doce river, that was already polluted even before the dam collapsed in Mariana. During my classes, I’ve always tried to emphasize to my students the importance of environmental education. It interferes in everything in life, in our livelihood and in our leisure”, says João Carlos Binda, an educator and member of the Child Guardianship Counsel in Itapina, district of Colatina, in Espírito Santo.
The teacher, Drielle Sousa Costa, of the Vila Regência Municipal School, in Regência, is concerned about the lessons that children take from these events. “Today, they have become accustomed to the idea of being without a river and sea. Some are more angry because their fathers can no longer fish. But our school has always worked with projects focused on the environment, we have a partnership with Tamar, and we address the subject in lectures and essays. We have painted the school wall depicting everything that has happened even to make them aware of the importance of water.”
It is a feeling similar to that of Drielle Sousa Costa a teacher from the Vila Regência Municipal School, in Regência, is concerned about the lessons that children take from these events. “Today, they have become used to the idea of not having a river and a sea. Some are more outraged because their fathers can no longer fish. But our school has always worked with environment focused projects since we have a partnership with Tamar Project, and we address the subject in lectures and writing exercises. We have painted the school wall depicting the whole story, precisely to raise their awareness towards the importance water has in our lives”.
This feeling is similar to that of Michel Gomes Pedro, a teacher and Director of Professora Urbana Penha Costa Municipal School, in Povoação, a district of Linhares: “Before Renova Foundation, we didn’t have anyone to dialogue with. But I always say that the community has to be open to proposals, dialogue and negotiation. The allowance card caused a commotion around here. Even the children speak of this allowance. So, I call the attention to the educational aspect because it is the basis for new generations”.
At first, these efforts to include the environmental component in education began in the communities close to Mariana.
Initiatives include conversation rounds, lectures and workshops in schools and communities to awaken the feeling of leadership in the population towards environmental impacts.
Along the year of 2016, 631 people participated in 41 environmental education activities in Mariana and Barra Longa.
Sensitive to the need to expand, together with research institutions, community representatives, water basin committees and governments, we started to plan an action for 2017 that will involve the 39 municipalities along the Doce river. One of this projects is already ongoing: the “Douradinho no Doce” Project, developed by Pelo Bem do Planeta Institute, will reach 12,000 students in the 4th year of elementary school of the whole municipal, state and private school network in the municipalities of Mariana, Barra Longa, Rio Doce, Santa Cruz do Escalvado, Governador Valadares, Colatina and Ipatinga (www.projetodouradinho.com.br) . The book “Amiga Lata, Amigo Rio” will be distributed to students and teachers will be instructed to use it in classroom activities. At the end of the year, author Thiago Cascabulho will go around the seven cities visiting schools and doing outdoor roleplay presentations.
PREPARED FOR NEW EMERGENCIES
“The only thing I would like to know is why we didn’t get a warning to leave the town?” asks Sinésio Carneiro. “Between
the initial mud wave that flooded Bento Rodrigues and its arrival in Barra Longa 12 hours elapsed. Enough time to remove everything from the pizzeria and take it to another place. At the end of the day, I spent 14 days without being able to leave the house and nine months with the pizzeria closed. I had to buy some electric appliances out of my own pocket to be able to return to work. One of my daughters who studied in another town had to put her studies on hold at university because, for the time being, I can’t afford to pay her tuition fees”.
This is the same complaint as the shop owner and small farmer’s Rômulo Fernandes. “he sound was like that of a bear in a cave: uh, uh, uh! That is how I remember the noise of the mud arriving, while I was trying to save a few things. We remained here for so long after what happened in Bento Rodrigues because the information didn’t match. The police said it had received no warning, but the neighbour’s
daughter, who works at Samarco, asked her family to leave town. They could at least have passed by with a truck asking us to leave. I lost everything in the house, in the bar, and I left only with the the documents in my pocket. I was amazed that the mud came in the form of waves. We thought it would stop because the river water level was very low. At least people had enough time to run to a higher place. And we saw it knocking everything over and carrying everything with it, buses, cars, bridges… it was terrifying.”
Rômulo Fernandes by Ricardo Correa
Sinésio and Rômulo, like so many other residents of the municipalities of Mariana, Barra Longa, Santa Cruz do Escalvado and Rio Doce, now have an alarm system installed by Samarco in the event of another dam related environmental emergency. After adapting to the new legislation, this system consists of 31 sirens, installed during 2016, which can warn people in the event of a flood in the basins of the Gualaxo and Carmo rivers, from the assessment of the civil Defence of the municipalities, based on data from instruments connected to an automated measurement system.
The Preparation for Environmental Emergencies Program will also enhance the competencies of those municipalities’ Civil Defense Departments. In September 2016, a diagnosis effort was carried out on both the structure and response capacity of these teams and an action plan was prepared with three fronts: improving public risk management; creating civil defence community groups that would empower the community concerning risk management; and training the young people in the schools concerning the perception of risk. In April, the Civil Defense Departments of the four municipalities will have the new equipment delivered.