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When daily life teaches

In the public schools in the municipality of Diadema, teaching how to read has gained a new meaning. After four years of intense work with teachers and the community, researchers from USP's School of Philosophy, Literature and Humanities have set up a new program for teaching how to read, based on the experience of the inhabitants and the history of the city where they live. As the educator Paulo Freire would defend, children, youngsters and adults are now learning to read and to write using elements from their daily lives; and teachers have learned to appreciate and to make use of the knowledge that students now brings with them. Being ashamed of not being able to read, “many adults would stay at the gates of the school and not enter”, says the coordinator of the research project, Zilda Márcia Gricoli Iokoi.

The problem was solved little by little, when the students realized that the school gave importance to what they already knew, and when the teachers got rid of their prejudices. “They understood that not knowing how to read is not the same as ignorance”, says the researcher. With the support of FAPESP, the project began with the training of 14 teachers and directors from seven schools in the public network, but there was a multiplying effect: today, all the municipal and state schools in Diadema make use of this philosophy and the vast didactic material created. “Even mathematics is taught using day to day situations. For example, the pupils figure out the distance they travel from home to the school, and do calculations based on the household budget”, Zilda explains.

Two books of stories were born of the experiences recounted by the students, one for adults and the other for children, both written by the researcher. Historical research about the city (until the 18th century, territory belonging to Benedictine monks) also resulted in a book:Diadema was born in the Greater ABC; A Retrospective History of the Red City . Used as support material for the teachers, the book seeks to show the origins of the current social issues of the region. Located next to a reservoir, Diadema was born as an area of leisure for the German families who lived in the capital city. It was transformed into a dormitory city, accompanying the industrial expansion of the ABC ( Industrial suburbs of the city of São Paulo), driven by the automobile industry.

Today, it is mostly inhabited by immigrants from the north-east, and there is even a Vila Socialista (Socialist Village), “a living example of the movement to occupy the land at the beginning of the 70s”, according to Zilda. Another document produced was a CD-ROM with unrecorded regional music, plenty of photographs, and illustrations produced by the students themselves. It is at the stage of the finishing touches, and will also be used in the schools to help in the process of teaching reading.

The material gathered during the research project has become part of the collection of the Diadema Memory Center, which the project helped to organize. And which may ensure the continuity of the work, although in another field. “We managed to convince the schools' directors to stop being mere bureaucrats. Today, they take an active part in the pedagogical program, and follow more closely the problems of the teachers”, explains Zilda. “We are sure that the project is not going to die, because they have really grasped the challenge to look for solutions for the pupils to learn more.”