If he were alive, Pernambuco educator Paulo Freire would turn 100 years old on September 19th. Therefore, given his immense contribution to education, culture and communication in Brazil, two guests help to understand why he became such an important character in the country’s history: Carlos Brandão, anthropologist and writer of the book “História do Menino que Read the World”; and Nita Freire, educator and widow of Paulo Freire.
The interviews, broadcast in full on the program Prosa e Fato, are part of the special program of the program, which throughout the month of September, will focus on the life, work and legacy of Paulo Freire.
Check out the main excerpts from the interviews:
Paulo Freire as a companion
Ana Maria Araújo Freire, better known as Nita, is an educator and spent the last ten years of Paulo Freire’s life as his partner. At 87, Nita tells how they met. It was still in his childhood, when Paulo Freire was studying at Nita’s father’s school. Thereafter, the contact was maintained, but each one went their own way. Both married their first mates.
During the military regime (1964-1985), the educator suffered persecution and was exiled from the country for 16 years. It was only after they returned to Brazil and became widowed that they were reunited. This time, Paulo Freire was the supervisor of Nita’s dissertation, which the educator almost gave up on finishing. Between one meeting and another, something changed.
“We transformed the nature of our relationships. From friend, teacher, advisor, we became a very loving couple,” he says.
Pursuit x valorization
Nita comments that many were saddened by the fact that Paulo Freire did not return to Recife after his exile, but explains that he did not do so for safety reasons. “At that time a chase was still going on. Less public, less known, but there was a lot of persecution. And Paulo was one of the men that the civil military coup wanted to liquidate”, he explains.
Even now, the Bolsonaro government is marked by attacks on the educator and his ideals. Nita explains why. “Paulo is a humanist, he likes the human being, he tries to create conditions, ideas that can be developed so that we can be more and more human. Bolsonaro is the opposite, he doesn’t want anyone to be happy. He imitates people dying from lack of air on television. A man like that is totally incapable of liking a man like Paul or following Paul’s precepts,” he emphasizes.
Despite these efforts to decimate the educator’s ideals, Nita believes that his thoughts have been well valued in Brazil today.
According to her, there are 42 titles of Doctor Honoris Causa and 5 of higher academic degree as Professor Emeritus. In addition, the former partner has received invitations from Chile, Rio Grande do Norte and Pernambuco to receive more titles.
“He is certainly the one with the most titles in Brazil and quite possibly the one with the most titles in the world,” he says.
Childhood and relationship with Recife
Who talks about Paulo Freire’s childhood is Carlos Rodrigues Brandão, anthropologist and professor at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). In addition to having studied the life of the educator, Brandão also knew him personally.
The anthropologist begins the interview with a little-known poem by Paulo Freire about his childhood and that of poor children in Recife. He wrote it during his exile in Chile. An excerpt said:
Recife, where I was hungry
where I had pain
without knowing why,
where today still
thousands of Paulos,
without knowing why,
have the same hunger
have the same pain,
angry at you, Recife, I can’t be.
“Paulo Freire is at the same time praising his beloved city, but remembering his sad, poor childhood and remembering that he was poorer than his childhood and continues to be the childhood of so many children”, comments the anthropologist.
Brandão already knew Paulo Freire through studies, but it was only in 1980 that he met him personally, when he had returned from exile and was living in São Paulo. Brandão refers to this moment as a “second exile”.
“Paulo’s dream was to return to Recife. Paulo always said he was a Pernambuco man who never left Recife, although he traveled the world.”
At this moment, Freire joins Unicamp. As he was a popular and freiriano educator, Brandão soon sought out the educator at the university and from there they formed a friendship that lasted for the rest of his life.
“It was a very dear friendship. I usually say that those who lived with Paulo Freire learned not only from his ideas and books, but from Paulo’s person. He really lived everything he wrote in a very profound way”, he recalls.
Story of the boy who read the world
Brandão says that after the educator’s death, the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and various institutions thought of paying a series of tributes and proposed to him to write a book with the biography of Paulo Freire.
“I said ‘look guys, there’s already a lot. I’ve written more than one myself'”, he recalls. Until Roseli Caldart, author of the book “Pedagogy of the Sem Terra Movement”, came up with the idea of making a book for children. “Nobody had thought about it and at the time I said it could be a brilliant idea”. And so he did. The book was released by Expressão Popular and several copies were distributed by the MST.
Finally, Brandão tells a story about when they went to consult Paulo Freire for the construction of the Paulo Freire Institute, to which he would have responded with: “if you repeat myself, it’s not worth creating this institute. But if it’s to overcome me, they can create”. Thus, more than reproducing the educator’s ideas, Brandão points to the need to go further and be in constant improvement with all the Freirian legacy that was left behind.
Source: BoF Pernambuco
Edition: Vanessa Gonzaga