Home Institution

Yale University

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


O Movimento de Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), has accomplished extensive land occupations and other socioeconomic and political gains by interjecting a class struggle in its agrarian reform platform. Thus, connected to its physical fight and demand for land, the MST from its inception has engaged in the political formation of sem terra—a process that “refers to learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (Freire 35). For the MST, this political formation is critical in the construction of an alternative socialist “nation that is free, wealthy, and just, a nation of citizens with no one left out” (Flavia 24).

In the last 22 years, Brazil’s shifting sociopolitical domestic and international policies, as well as the MSTs own varying needs, have influenced the different ways in which it has approached the issue of political formation. In the past, it has done so through the creation of different courses and partnerships, and even the creation of two national schools. The construction of the Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes represents the MSTs need for capacitação de quadros—the development of technical and scientific skills among MST leaders. In this essay, I analyze the Escola Nacional’s multidimensional pedagogy based on work, study, organization, and human relations in training sem terra to better deal with the needs of their diverse realities. In so doing, I examine its pedagogy specifically in relation to its construction methodology, its organizational structures, the courses it offers, and its physical mechanisms. Moreover, I argue that culture represents a fifth dimension to the Escola Nacional’s multidimensional pedagogy, and provide a critique of the way the Escola Nacional and the MST as a whole have dealt with the issue of mental health. Finally, I include examples of the kinds of contributions the Escola Nacional´s students make upon return to their communities.


Politics and Social Change


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