Report: Education Ministry was omissive in its Covid-19 response

Brazil's Education Ministry called "omissive" in its Covid-19 response
Education Minister Abraham Weintraub. Photo: Marcelo Camargo/ABr

The Education Ministry’s response to the coronavirus crisis and subsequent disruption of classes nationwide has come under renewed criticism, as a report from a special committee within the lower house found the ministry to be omissive and mostly absent in establishing effective policies to weather the crisis.

According to the 52-page report, the Education Ministry failed in coordinating and presenting solutions to aid students and institutions in handling the abrupt suspension of classes. One example of this failure was the absence of a unified remote learning project from the Education Ministry, which left states and school officials to grapple with isolation measures by themselves.

Another failure of the ministry, the report points out, was the absence of a plan to address the uneven access to the internet by public school students, which is another factor in widening the learning gap between public and private school students. One in every four public school students in the North and Northeast regions of the country do not have broadband internet at home and rely exclusively on limited mobile data plans to access online content.

The congressional report — drafted by 50 representatives from 12 different parties — points out that the ministry could have partnered with telecoms companies to offer special data plans to students, catered to their online learning needs. It also shows concerns about contract overpricing during the pandemic, as the Education Ministry has already spent BRL 1.6 billion (USD 305.29 million) in new contracts since March 22.

The special committee will open a separate fiscal inquiry to investigate 109 contracts worth BRL 229.6 million, 15 percent of the total spending in the period.

Education Minister in the spotlight

Aside from having his management currently under intense criticism, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub has repeatedly made headlines for his antics and controversial comments against other government branches. Mr. Weintraub is currently under a Supreme Court probe for inflammatory comments he made, asking for the arrest of Supreme Court justices and calling them “bums.” More recently, Mr. Weintraub was fined for not wearing a mask in public as he took part in a pro-government protest.

Support this coverage →Support this coverage →