Around 22 percent of Brazilian youths aged between 15 and 17 are out of school. Among girls, early pregnancy, child marriage and prostitution are the main causes.
As Principal of State Upper School Darcy Ribeiro, located at the municipality of Pugmil in the state of Tocantins, 51-year-old Elizete Batista Viana believes Education is a strategic tool to reverse this scenario. Supported by the Integrated Regional Sustainable Development project in Tocantins, and carried out in partnership with the World Bank, six schools - including Upper School Darcy Ribeiro - will adopt a program to raise awareness about gender, and physical, psychological or sexual violence.
Due to the school's proximity to federal highway BR-153, too many students were leaving school to turn to prostitution or other things. "With the gas station located near the school and so many truckers stopping at night, boys are attracted by the possibility of making money by passing 'the little black', a mixture of grease, on the truck tires to leave them shining, and girls end up prostituting themselves or fleeing with the drivers," the school principal explained.
As soon as she identified the problem, Elizete decided to act to curb dropping out of school. In addition to lectures on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), conducted by representatives of the local health unit, the headmistress decided to contact all of the students that left school and their families to persuade them to go back. "I often talk with the girls about the importance of graduating school, getting better jobs, earning their own money and not being victims of situations of violence," Elizete explained. But solutions are not always easy. Many of these girls belong to low-income families and answer back that they can't get out of abusive situations because they cannot afford living on their own.
In addition to this, many girls are repeating the story of their own mothers, and believe it is natural to go through the same path. "Some girls are even pushed by their family to find husbands that can support them," she said.