Francisco Celso Leitão Freitas

Teaching Center of the Internment Unit of Santa Maria, Brasilia, Brazil

Francisco  Celso Leitão Freitas

Francisco is a history teacher, specialist in inclusive education and a social mediator trainer. Since 2015 he has been working at the Educational Center of the Penitentiary Unit of Santa María, in the city of Brasilia, where young people deprived of their liberty attend classes. All of them come from disadvantaged neighbourhoods and are treated with many prejudices. Many of the inmates have never received visits or have families to accompany them. They are women and men who left school many years ago, making it very difficult to awaken in them the desire for learning.

Francisco is founder and coordinator of the RAP (Resocialization, Autonomy and Protagonism) Project that uses rap musicality and poetry as an emancipatory pedagogical tool capable of promoting the values of a culture of peace and human rights with historic links.

The project serves around 150 adolescents (boys and girls), who are held at the Hospitalization Unit of Santa Maria Federal District, having been in trouble with the law, sometimes for acts of violence, and who are prone to self-harm and suicide attempts. Young people on the project have benefited from socio-education and rehabilitation, going on to make records, videos, take part in music and culture festivals and resources produced by the project such as music, video clips and e-books have been placed online free of charge so others can enjoy the benefits.

Francisco has received wide recognition and awards for the RAP project and has attended conferences and visited schools to lecture on the value of this form of social mediation, resocialization, combating drug use and abuse, coping with various forms of prejudice and discrimination and the decriminalization of urban culture.

In addition, Francisco has accompanied young people after they complete their time in the Penitentiary Unit so that they do not fall back into the same cycle of violence that led them there. Most of the graduates have managed to reintegrate society and some have dedicated themselves to rap, making presentations, recording albums and video clips with messages about freedom and addressing youth demands.

Since it began, the RAP Project managed to transcend the doors of Santa María to other penitentiary units and to some schools in Brazil. The Project has won countless awards, many of which were received directly by students in other cities, being the first time they left the Penitentiary Unit. Despite the harsh reality, Francisco has managed to inspire and motivate his students so that they understand that education is path to new opportunities in life.