Friends of the National School Are Challenged to Strengthen the School
by Maura Silva
Founded in December of 2009, the Association of Friends of the National School of Florestan Fernandes functions—using the school's own pedagogical process—with the objective of bringing together people that can contribute to a transformative force to construct a more just and equal society.
The construction of the ENFF is a historical conquest of the working class. Inaugurated in 2005, it was constructed between the years of 2000-2005, thanks to the voluntary work of many MST members and friends.
The resources for the its construction were obtained through the sale of photos of Sebastião Salgado and the book Terra (with photos by Sebastião Salgado, text by José Saramango and the music of Chico Buarque) as well as through contributions from working class Brazilians, Latin Americans, and others from around the world.
Located in Guararema (70km from São Paulo), the school aims to be a space for political study among other areas. Its mission is to foster the formation of leaders in social movements and organizations that fight for a more just world.
In an interview on the MST’s webpage, Carlos Alberto Duarte, President of the Association of Friends of the ENFF, speaks about its founding and where the school is headed as it celebrates its fifth year of existence in 2015.
The Association of Friends of the ENFF was founded with what objective?
The Association began in December of 2009, but began operating in February of 2010. We were professors, educators and professionals in other areas that, directly or indirectly, wanted to nurture the educational process offered at ENFF.
Our idea was always to offer a financial aspect to help maintain the school and help it to spread its pedagogical message as much has possible.
At first the group was small, but with time it grew. The empathy, acceptance and solidarity surprised us since the beginning, and it helped us hold fast to the initial goal. Today we have about 400 people who voluntarily contribute to the project.
What tools does the Association use to increase the number of contributions?
Today we use the website as our main dissemination tool. We are also launching an international campaign to raise more funds.
We have also attempted other campaigns, like collecting books or home building supplies.
I usually say that these contributions are not donations but are simply the work of those who believe in the ENFF. What we are doing is work for the common good. It’s not being a good Samaritan, it's believing that with certain actions we can indeed make a difference in the environment that we live in.
How does it feel to contribute to a school with a new model of education?
We do everything because we believe in the heart of the ENFF. Today we have two salaried employees and the rest are all volunteers.
Most are people connected to or interested in the education sector. They go to the school and see, for example, a course about Latin America with young students interacting and exchanging ideas – it’s very gratifying.
There exists a special mystique, people come and ask how it all works. We respond that everything is done collectively. It’s a move from individual thinking, and the ENFF practices just this; a pedagogy of collective work.
Traditional education values individuality, the student is not taught to think collectively with the others. The process at ENFF is different. The same person who just took a class about Marx will also wash the dishes and help to plant the garden and share what they have learned.
When collectivity is emphasized, the entire environment we live in improves. And this is the role of the Association. It’s a unique experience that should be shared with all people. It’s a space that demystifies many current questions in the Brazilian political Left.
What are the next objectives of the Association?
Five years is a start, but we still have many goals. We want to reach 1,000 members and increase the number of people who can access everything the ENFF has to offer.
Maintaining this continuous structure of the ENFF is not easy. Students don’t pay anything for their studies, books, food, accommodation, etc.
However they do contribute to the maintenance of the school through both daily domestic and productive work. Thus, our focus continues to be financial contributions.
We work to publicize the activities of the school through the domestic and international press and also work to keep members informed of the school's activities and how donations are being used.
The search for new partners is also a constant one. We believe in what is offered at the ENFF and this motivates us to work more and more.
How can people contribute with the Association and the ENFF?
Anyone can become a member of the ENFF. It's important to fill in the registration form with a commitment to ideally contribute a monthly minimum of R$20.00, or any amount.
The resources received by the Association will be go directly to the activities of the School. Eventually, some of these funds may be used to organize other activities (seminars, exhibitions of art and photography, music and film festivals) as well.