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Battle Won, Brazilian Homeschooler Admitted to University
By Ricardo Iene
Lorena Dias (right) with her family
We recently faced a legal battle concerning my daughter, Lorena, who had been prevented from enrolling in college. I have homeschooled both my children (Lorena, 17, and Guilherme, 14) for five years. At 16, Lorena passed two University Entrance Exams but was prevented from enrolling herself due to the lack of a high school diploma. She did achieve a score at ENEM (a national standardized exam in Brazil) which was high enough for her to request a diploma from the National Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC).
The rule states that only students of 18 years of age or older are eligible to request the issuing of a diploma based on ENEM scores. Therefore, before she even took the tests we emancipated her so she would be fully entitled to common civil rights such as attending college. Even so, the certificate was denied by IBF (Federal Institute of Brasilia), allegedly because she was below 18. We argued that she had been emancipated but they countered that by stating there was a resolution which prohibited emancipated youths from acquiring the certificate.
We then filed a lawsuit and kept the subject fervently in our prayers. We were seen by an intern who filed the documents and took the case to the public attorney. Even though we never saw this attorney, he did write an excellent defense for our case affirming that the issuing of the diploma for Lorena was a matter of right and a matter of justice in a country that’s striving to provide people with access to higher education.
Nevertheless, the Justice on call—probably in an effort to avoid the heat—denied our request for a preliminary decision, so we appealed to a higher court. As classes were about to begin, Lorena and I decided to go to the court and try to meet at least an assistant of the justice who was supposed to decide on our appeal. Well, God had gone ahead of us.
When we got there, the justice’s assistant was kind but offered promptly: “Look, I had a similar situation with my daughter, even though she wasn’t homeschooled. She tried to get into college at 16 and couldn’t. You can take my word: hire a private lawyer and go to a common court. You won’t go very far on the aid of a public attorney.”
Lorena gave me a worried look.
Then the assistant said, “If you want to see the judge, he is in his office right now.”
Before the Judge
Within a few minutes we were talking to the man. Everyone in Brasilia was amazed that we were able to actually see the judge. He was very welcoming and promised us he would supply a decision within two days. Because our God is God over the impossible, within the set deadline the judge was favorable to Lorena and gave her the preliminary decision that enabled her to acquire her certificate and enroll herself in the college where she had been accepted.
In this next section I’m going to quote from the judicial decision:
9. In the (above cited) hypothesis, even though the petitioner was not yet eighteen years of age as she took the ENEM exams and as of now still is not, it does not appear to be reasonable to me to deny her the high school certificate in virtue of her age, for this must not stand as an absolute prerequisite, once the student has proved to be mature enough to intake the high school curriculum and achieve a performance that sufficed for the emission of said certificate. The fact that she was not eighteen years of age at the time of the exams seems to me irrelevant in face of the good which is being sought which is to engage in higher education.
10. In this sense, notwithstanding this court’s understanding that it should not be possible for the student of less than eighteen years of age to obtain the high school certificate as per ENEM scores, and although this understanding has been previously applied in the sixth region, to which I belong, I yield to the arguments employed by Minister José Delgado in reporting Resp n. 194.782 – ES which, while analyzing the requirement of a minimum age to grant access to adult education, explained that it is the judge’s duty not to solely attain to the literal and abstract sense of the legal command, but to apply the norm while considering the factual reality.
Please note that in my highlighting of the judicial report, in the tenth paragraph, the judge admits as to having changed his mind. It is not common for a man in this position to have the humbleness to state that. The attorneys and lawyers I know were all very surprised that a judge would analyse a cause so expeditiously. To me there’s only one reason: “The king's heart is in the hand of Jehovah as the watercourses: He turneth it whithersoever he will.”
Homeschool Studies Validated
This took place in March, but it was only last week that Lorena actually received her certificate. We are very pleased, not only for Lorena but for the jurisprudence created around the case. There have been many cases of youths entering college before eighteen even through a judicial decision, but this is the first time it involved a homeschooler.
The impact of this fact in the media was very big and positive. Several newspapers, magazines and news shows around the country highlighted the case. In a single day, we received five news teams at our house for interviews, four TV shows and one newspaper. People’s reactions in the websites and social networks were also very favorable. One fact is especially noteworthy.
Whenever the topic of homeschooling is brought about, there is always a “specialist” discussing the myth of socialization. Home educators in Brazil have been dealing with this for a few years. We have been patiently responding to these arguments, and we have debated this issue many times in places such as the House of Representatives, in speeches, interviews and public hearings. The majority of so-called scholars who speak about socialization don’t even know what they are talking about. They accuse us of hiding our kids in bubbles instead of teaching them how to deal with difficulties and learn how to live with diversity.
It turns out that Lorena is majoring in journalism in a university in Brasilia and was elected by her classmates at the end of the first semester as student representative of her class. I don’t take special pride in this, but I made sure this fact was advertised in the media so the education professionals could see there is socialization in homeschooling! Lorena is currently the overall second in her class and the first in the subject of photography.
These are exciting times for families interested in home education in Brazil.
Ricardo Iene is the president of Associação Nacional de Educação Domiciliar (ANED), the national homeschool association in Brazil.
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