Education in Fernando de Noronha

Education in Fernando de Noronha

In order to have an idea of what is education in Fernando de Noronha Islands it is necessary to consider certain special aspects, like the geographical, social and economic local characteristics, which differ very much of those in the continent.

Geographically, Fernando de Noronha is part of an archipelago some 550 km from Recife and 375 km from Natal, in the continent. The archipelago comprises 20 rocks and islands. In the largest of them lives a small human population. This island is large enough to accommodate a 7.9 km highway, the BR 376, connecting the port to the airport and around, where the settlements are, with their secondary roads, generally leading to the many beaches and residential areas.

Some 2,100 people live in the Islands, of which approximately 180 are enrolled in the Bem-me-quer Kindergarten School, and 630 in the Archipelago Primary and High School (Escola Arquipélago). Thus, about 1/3 of the archipelago´s population shares the only educational network available, which is public.

The archipelago, which is located in the so-called Equatorial Atlantic, has a volcanic origin. Its islands were discovered by Américo Vespúcio, who was in the crew of the Second Expedition sent by Portugal to explore the Brazilian coastal line, under the command of Gonçalo Coelho. A Portuguese nobleman, Fernão de Loronha, covered the costs of this expedition.

Actually, the Discovery of the archipelago was due to chance, since the expedition´s leading vessel stranded and sank at a point now called “Pedras Secas” (roughly, Dried Stones). The whole crew was saved and taken to the main island, where they stayed for almost two years before being rescued and sent back to Portugal.

Long years of neglect followed. The sponsor of the expedition then received from the Portuguese Crown the archipelago as a Hereditary Captaincy, something that took place in 1504, though Loronha himself never once visited the islands. The colonization of Brazil began in 1530, the land being granted under the form of hereditary captaincies. Fernando de Noronha happened to be the first such grant.

After 1556 Noronha was attacked by the French, the Dutch and by pirates. The French actually visited the Islands several times – in 1556, 1612 and 1736. There are records of the stay of pirates and the Dutch. The Netherlands invaded Noronha in 1620 and held its position there until they were defeated and expelled by the people of Pernambuco, in the continent, in mid-1654.

By means of this outline, we intend to describe the beginning of the activities of Fernando de Noronha Primary and High School. It is not possible to elucidate these without mentioning the archipelago´s discovery process, the years of neglect, the many attempts at invasion by European nations, and also the deficiencies and difficulties encountered in the colonization of the islands, as well as in the establishment of an educational system for the local population.

Due to its privileged location in the Equatorial Atlantic and its inclusion in the main navigation routes, Noronha now enjoys a strategic position for diverse purposes.

After the defeat of the Dutch and their expulsion from Brazilian domains, and consequently from Noronha, the island went through a long period of neglect. It was only from 1737 on that the island started receiving convicts regularly, and to function as a Penal Colony. Its utilization as a correctional facility lasted until 1938.

The first sign of a center for teaching and learning occurred in 1890, according to the enrollment registration book of the Public Mixed School of the Penal Colony of Fernando de Noronha, which operated where now is located the Real Bank branch. The book shows that constant activity took place there up to the year 1916.

Many other units of instruction were created and maintained in the Islands, like Major Costa Primary School, founded in 1957, and the High School, founded in 1964 and operating where now is the Flamboyant Park. Through several agreements and budget allocations, Noronha went through many attempts to establish a teaching and learning system as a federal territory. Being an oceanic island, however, a lot of time and effort was lost until some kind of structure capable of attending to the population needs was found. Many difficulties delayed these efforts, such as the lack of specialized labor in the archipelago.

By the Law n. 5.692 of August 11, 1971, is founded on March 2, 1972, the Fernando de Noronha Integrated High School, absorbing the activities of both the Major Costa Primary School and High School. In order to achieve its goals the IHS was maintained by the Brazilian Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Department of Education and Culture of the then Territory of Fernando de Noronha, on an internship scheme, thus absorbing children from 3 to 6 years of age in kindergarten.

From the very beginning, education in the Islands suffers from the lack of a qualified staff. At the time of the Colony, teaching was generally performed by the wives of the Governors, later by the wives of the military personnel and lay teachers from the local population who, after becoming literate, would pass on their newly acquired skills to fellow inhabitants.

In 1981 several agreements were signed with high schools in the states of Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Norte, in order to secure teaching on an internal and external basis, as are the cases of: Garanhuns Diocesan High School (Colégio Diocesano), Pesqueira´s Santa Dorotéia High School (Colégio Santa Dorotéia), Ceará-mirim´s Santa Águida High School (Colégio Santa Águida), Olinda´s São Bento High School (Colégio São Bento), Recife´s Maria Tereza High School (Colégio Maria Tereza), Natal´s Technical School (Escola Técnica), Recife´s CEPREVE High School and Elo High School (Colégio Elo).

The introduction of the Secondary School took place in August, 1985. In the beginning it was a night school that operated in two classrooms of the IHS. This experimental project was called the CSS – Center of Suppletive Studies of Fernando de Noronha. However, most of the deficiencies and difficulties that afflicted those ahead of the educational effort of Noronha´s community still remain up to the present day.

In 1988, when Fernando de Noronha is again placed under the jurisdiction of the state of Pernambuco and the school is administered by its Department of Education, the IHS becomes the Fernando de Noronha Islands High School.

Today this institution undergoes a number of innovations that affects from its physical structure to a complete methodological and pedagogical update, with and eye at the particular needs of the population of the archipelago.

Teaching in Noronha is thus, clearly, an enduring act of learning.

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