|Activists from Educafro chained themselves to the ministry in Brasilia|
In Brazil public universities, which are nearly free, are the best universities while private universities generally have a lower reputation. The opposite is true in primary and secondary education. While public schools are free, they perform badly. In addition, expensive private schools prepare their students better for university. Learners from public schools generally don’t succeed for the entrance exam of public universities (O Vestibular). These universities are therefore only reachable for students who went to expensive private schools.
Critics don’t think it’s a good idea to install racial quotas for positive discrimination in public universities. The problem should be tackled at its root, this means making public schools better rather than accepting lower performing students in universities.
But there are also Brazilians who think this is a much needed initiative. Only one senator voted against the law. Indeed, Black Brazilians do suffer discrimination. Even in the government there are nearly no Afro-Brazilians while Brazil has the highest portion of people of African descent outside Africa. In a perfect world affirmative action wouldn’t be needed, but at least for a limited period of time there should be initiatives that try to compensate the wrongs from the past.
But critics are afraid that access to public university will not be based on merit but on race and social background. A higher score on the entrance exams will not be a guarantee for access to the good public universities, if coming from a private school. More and more hard working lower middle class Brazilians, spend a fortune to have their children studying in private schools. They consider this the high price to pay to get them in the best universities of the country. Will they be excluded if white, although poor?
Question are raised on how the selection based on race will take place. At the University of Brasilia they installed a commission that decides whether a student is black or not. Some call it a ‘racial court’ that will instigate racism rather than stop it. Roberta Kaufman, a lawyer, thinks that affirmative action based on income would be much better rather than on school background and race. Furthermore, many Brazilian families are multiracial. One person can be considered white while her brother or sister would be perceived as Afro-Brazilian.
Finally, some think this decision will directly affect the quality of the public universities. Leandro Tessler, institutional relations coordinator at the University of Campinas. told the NY Times that “you don’t create capable and creative people by decree”.