Jayse Ferreira

Escola de Referência de Ensino Médio Frei Orlando, Itambé

Brazil

Jayse  Ferreira

Jayse Ferreira grew up in the Brazilian city of Itambé, a place known until recently for the violence and poverty that are common experiences for the students in his school. He comes, like many of those he teaches, from a poor background. His parents both worked harvesting sugar cane. Neither could read or write, but they did instil in him a powerful belief in education.

When he qualified as a History of Art teacher, Ferreira was determined to pass on this passion for learning to his students. He knew he had to develop ways of teaching that would resonate with his secondary school students. He surveyed his students about what would make school more engaging for them. He discovered the curriculum was out of touch with their lived experiences. Technology and social media emerged as important elements. He created the “Let’s SHORTen this story” project, encouraging the students to write short films. This was ambitious as most of the students had not been to the cinema before. He made an arrangement with the cinema in the state capital so the students could afford to visit.

The students were inspired. Together they selected a short story to film - a prequel to the Harry Potter series. At the time, there was hardly any equipment in the school. Ferreira persuaded local businesses to support the project, for example through donations of clothing for costumes. The students undertook every aspect of the filming, from acting to editing. The resulting video was viewed more than 20,000 times on Youtube in less than a week.

Building on this success, the students have taken on more challenging subjects that directly affect them, including drink driving, which results in a significant number of deaths among young people in the area each year. The films were screened to the community and received overwhelmingly positive responses.

Alongside the filming, Ferreira’s students engage in debates about the issues they address. One particularly caught his attention. The students were discussing their racial and religious identities in the face of experiences of prejudice. This led to a photography project exploring ethnicity in Brazil. The work was exhibited for the whole community to appreciate. Subsequently, incidents of prejudice in the school have reduced to zero.

Ferreira has been able to share his methods with others in his town through a teacher peer support network he has established. He is also part of the national Conectando Saberes (Connecting Knowledge) teacher network.

University applications have increased dramatically among Ferreira’s students, while school drop-out rates have dropped markedly. The work being undertaken by Ferreira in Itambé has been recognised nationally. He has won the Paulo Freire Honor of Merit medal. The work was awarded best High School in the Innovation category for use of ICT in the 2017 Teachers of Brazil Award. As a result, the town is no longer known only as Brazil’s most violent city, but for the creative work of Ferreira and his students.