Gilberto de Palma Augusto

Ashoka Fellow
Illustration of a person's face depicting a fellow
Brazil
Fellow since 1999
This description of Gilberto de Palma Augusto's work was prepared when Gilberto de Palma Augusto was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999 .

Introduction

Gilberto is launching a grassroots citizenship awareness movement that focuses on accountability at the municipal level. It aims to engage students and others to create non-partisan institutions across Brazil that monitor municipal elections, revering apathy and disaffection toward politics.

The New Idea

Gilbertoo believes that to create an educated citizenry two things are needed: a body of interesting material that puts practical, citizenship-related problem solving skills in the hands of citizens; and a municipal-level, non-partisan body that can serve as a gathering point for citizen comments and complaints. To meet these needs, Gilberto has created the first in a series of curriculum offerings that have been adopted by twelve high schools in São Paulo, six private and six public. He has also created the first municipal-level Voters Rights Agency. It is being sponsored by the Law Faculty at the University of São Paulo.

The Problem

Fifteen years after democracy has been restored to Brazil, there is a widely shared perception that politics and holding political office are dirty business, removed from the life of ordinary citizens. Transparency International ranks Brazil in the most corrupt twenty percent of countries in the world according to their Corruption Perceptions and Bribe Payers Index. Disillusionment is pervasive enough that corruption is commonly seen as part of the culture, and therefore seemingly impossible to eradicate. Students are not educated in the schools about their rights and duties as citizens, and there is no non-partisan organization focusing on people's role as voting citizens.

The Strategy

Gilberto is proceeding on two fronts, developing a curriculum for students aged sixteen-to-eighteen that focuses on how various groups compete for attention of voters. Using newspaper articles to showcase various and using an analytic case study method , Gilberto intends to produce "thinking student citizens." He has entered into agreements with six private schools in São Paulo to introduce the curriculum, and as a condition of their doing so, each of the private schools must partner with a public school in the effort. He has published his curriculum, "Agora," on his website in an effort to encourage other schools to take it and adopt it. His next step will be to introduce a similar curriculum for fourteen-to-eighteen year olds at the same twelve schools.In introducing this curriculum in public schools Gilberto is capitalizing on a broad opportunity. The Federal Ministry of Education recently required that twenty-five percent of the curriculum in schools deal with cross-cutting themes such as citizenship awareness, cultural preservation, and health. It is following Gilberto's work with a great deal of interest. The Voters' Rights Agencies will advocate for the rights of citizens who vote based on the promises that candidates make during election proceedings. The agencies will follow up on the activities of elected officials, register complaints, bring misdeeds to the attention of the press and the public, and in essence act as a consumer protection agency for voters and citizens. Town hall meetings called "Voter Debates" bring civil society together to discuss local public policy and the conduct of elected officials, giving an open forum to the students educated through Gilberto's curriculum and adults seeking just actions on the part of their elected government.

The Person

Gilberto has a degree in Sociology. He taught for eleven years in Brazil's public and private schools. In 1992, he left teaching and became a consultant to the project "O Estado na Escola," led by a local newspaper. The aim of the project was to train teachers to use the newspaper as a basis for their classes. Over two hundred schools in the city of São Paulo are now associated with the project. In May of 1998, after the deadline for teenagers over 16 to apply for a voter ID had expired, Gilberto read reports that showed the demand had been minimal. He organized a roundtable discussions with students to explore the reasons for their lack of interest. Based on these discussions, he formulated his plan for both a detailed citizenship curriculum and a non-partisan and independent municipal-level Voters Rights Agency. He has put aside the publishing company he ran in order to work on his idea full time.