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unified educational centres: constructing citizenship in the periphery? If anything can, the Unified Educational Centres (Centros Educacionais Unificados, or CEUs) may offer an antidote to the all-inclusive condominium subculture of the exclusive formal city. In the face of irrefutable evidence of sociospatial segregation and exclusion, including a chronic lack of recreational facilities in the periphery, São Paulo’s government invented a brilliant concept: the all-inclusive CEU. Dignified by interesting and modern architectural designs, 21 different CEUs have been developed specifically for the periphery, and just for low-income communities, such as Vila Rubi and Cidade Tiradentes. The placement of the educational centres was informed by the social exclusion and inclusion maps of 2000, developed by Aldaíza Sposati. As a result, the CEUs have successfully been located in under-served communities of high social exclusion, normally in previously regarded informal or illegal areas that are now being regularized and urbanised. Many of the CEUs have been completed and are in full use; independent evaluators have reported that community satisfaction with the facilities exceeds 90 per cent. The administration of Mayor Marta Suplicy, who served from 2000 to 2004, developed CEUs to meet community needs expressed during participatory budgeting processes and community consultations. The centres are one-stop cultural, educational and community focal points in São Paulo’s most deprived areas; they have multiple facilities combining education for children, youth and adults with community cinemas and theatres, sports areas, day care centres, libraries, canteens and swimming pools (one for each school). The CEUs also have ‘telecentres’: public spaces where people can use computers, the Internet and other digital technologies to collect information, be creative and learn and communicate with others as they develop digital skills essential for success in the 21st century. The municipality explains in its official website that it intends for the Unified Educational Centres to ‘promote the integral development of children, youth and adults through innovative educational experiences, artistic activities, cultural [activities], sports and digital inclusion’. The centres are expensive and were designed to offer state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for disadvantaged students. Mayor Suplicy defended the cost of the centres as necessary for the long-term social good. The goal of the CEU is that these children, who live in shacks, with unemployed parents, have a chance to study in a beautiful place, with uniforms and school supplies. The idea is to bring culture and leisure, and education. There they have access to many things they may have never seen — from a sink and toilet paper to computers, DVD players and musical instruments. The real difference between us is that a poor person does not have access to anything. If we give them access they will have a better chance in life. With the implementation of CEUs, public facilities in education have increased markedly in number and intensity of use. The number of municipal libraries has increased from 67 to 88 (30 per cent), telecentres from 52 to 73 (40 per cent), swimming pools from 61 to 128 (109 per cent), and theaters from seven to 21 — a whopping 300 per cent increase. These pioneering centres are therefore not only a new concept of public space management, combining different facilities at one point in the community, but they also offer a cluster of educational and aesthetic experiences for a wide variety of students. The centres are also intended to serve as reference points, and places where district social relationships are mobilized and reorganized; by stimulating new social interactions, each centre helps develop a local identity and becomes a community development nexus. Perhaps above all, those who designed the centres hope they will foster a strong positive sense of urban citizenship, with all its rights and obligations, and a strong sense of inclusion. Since Suplicy’s left-wing administration, subsequent mayors and their departments have generally supported the CEUs, and there are few critics of them. Although the mayor who succeeded Marta Suplicy wanted to stop funding the CEUs, a popular backlash forced the government to continue the programme. The aims of the CEUs are ambitious and far-reaching, but no one doubts the need for them in the periphery. With strong popular support and continued government funding, the CEU approach may yet achieve its basic, and more esoteric, objectives. Source: Loyola, L. (2003, 11 September). Municipal elections: The complicated task of overcoming Marta. Revista Época, 278.

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Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

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