Tucked behind São Paulo FC’s stadium in the upper-class neighborhood of Morumbi, Porto Seguro is a lavish private school with intense security. It boasts its own football ground, an adjoining terrace and athletics track, chic snack bars and even a zoo containing a rare peacock donated by a Swedish princess who once studied there. In classrooms laden with the latest state-of-the-art technology, its predominantly white alumni follow both the German and Brazilian education curriculum and, in their English classes, the senior sets have just concluded a famous 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley while dreaming of Ivy League colleges and the finest European universities. On one wall, a huge display contains the photos and current destinations of the class of 2016 who successfully realized such ambitions.
A mile up the road in Paraisópolis, the city’s second-largest favela, its much smaller public counterpart, E.E. Etelvina Goes Marcucci, has a cold, industrial look. Its factory-like building seems depressed and uninviting from the exterior, manned by a lone bulky guard donning the supporters’ apparel for the local várzea amateur team. Inside the school becomes intimidating, its walls covered in fading paint with broken, graffiti-covered desks and a suffocating lack of space as football is played in a chairless canteen that forces its diners to eat standing up.