Note from BW of Brazil: The history of the quilombo is an important piece in the struggle of Afro-Brazilians. These independent communities were established by fugitives escaping the cruelty and brutality of Brazil’s slave regime. Some of these communities grew to be quite heavily populated and even maintained their independence despite continuous attempts of slave masters to re-capture slaves and destroy these communities. The most famous of them all was undoubtedly Palmares led by the legendary Zumbi and his wife Dandara in the 17th century. Today, throughout Brazil there remain numerous leftover communities of the sort where descendants of these revolutionaries continue to struggle for the legal rights to these lands. As these struggles continue, recently, in the southern state of Paraná, one descendant of these quilombolas made her mark in the history books for an individual accomplishment that deserves recognition. Her story below.
Paraná has the first quilombo Ph.D in Brazil
Courtesy of Secretaria da educação – Governo do Estado do Paraná
The Department of Diversity of the Ministry of Education of the state of Paraná has its first quilombola Ph.D in Brazil. The professor of the state network of education Edimara Soares finished her doctorate in 2012 at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), after defending her thesis “Educação Escolar Quilombola: quando a diferença é indiferente” (Quilombola School Education: When the difference is indifferent).
The knowledge that she gained during her research is disseminated and discussed in courses on quilombola school education. The Department of Diversity has existed since 2008 in the Department of Education, and Edimara Soares works in the coordination of the ethno-racial education diversity relations.
Paraná has two state schools that operate within quilombola communities, Colégio Estadual Quilombola Diogo Ramos, in the João Surá community in Adrianópoli and Escola Estadual Quilombola Maria Joana Ferreira, in Adelaide Maria da Trindade Batista community in Palmas.
In addition, another 43 state schools serve students who live in quilombola communities. Paraná has 37 communities certified by the Fundação Cultural Palmares (Palmares Cultural Foundation), an agency of the federal government, such as the quilombo remnants.
“Paraná is reference in quilombo school education. Other states are beginning to discuss it, and here we already have specific educational projects for the quilombola schools,” said Edimara Soares.
Articulation of knowledge
Edimara devoted four years to her studies, two in field research in quilombo state schools of Paraná and in Vake do Ribeira communities, Palmas and Guaíra. “In my research I dealt with the importance of education in the quilombos, in how to make the articulation of knowledge of the quilombo community with the scientific knowledge produced by mankind,” says the Ph.D Emimara Soares.
Edimara lived up to 15 years in the Estância do Meio/Timbaúva quilombo, located in the city of Formigueiro, on the interior of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. She left there to go to high school in the city and then passed the vestibular (entrance exam) in the field of geography at the Federal University of Santa Maria, where she graduated in 2007.
“I wanted to do research on my quilombo, to do a master’s degree, but there in Rio Grande do Sul, at the time, I didn’t find anyone to advise me on this topic. I discovered that in Paraná there was a professor at the Federal University of Paraná, in the Graduate Program in Education, who was researching the subject. I passed the master’s program and came to study here,” Edimara said.
Professor Tânia Maria Baibich was her advisor on her master’s degree and doctorate. “My master’s thesis was considered unprecedented in Brazil and did at the University what we called up-grade. I went straight to a doctorate,” explained Edimara.
Possibilities and challenges
For doctoral research the professor sent questionnaires to teachers, staff and leaders of quilombo communities of Paraná. Also did several interviews with these people in the initial and continuing education courses offered by the Department of Education about the possibilities and challenges of implementing the Quilombola Education School policy.
There were two years in the field collecting information. All the accumulated knowledge is now passed on in training courses for teachers.
The Superintendent of Education, Fabiana Campos, stressed the importance of the state network relying on a specialized professional working directly in the field where she studied. “This shows the whole appreciation of the process. A person who prepared herself, researched, specialized and will now transmit this qualified knowledge,” said the superintendent.