Problem: The lack of debates about democracy, citizenship and social participation in school leaves many students feeling alienated and indifferent to what is happening around them. They grow up with these attitudes and as adults, they do not participate in the decisions of public authorities. A project in the city of Santo André aims to change this, allowing children, from a very young age, to collaborate in municipal debates about the use of public money to improve their lives.
Solutions: In 2014, schools in the city elected children representatives to take part in debates about the priorities of the council during plenaries on collaborative budget. Conversations between educators and children about the importance of their participation were supported by books such as Ruth Rocha´s “The Right and Duties of Children”. Another project conducted with the children involved finding children in the world, starting with the Universe, arriving on Earth, then South America, Brazil, São Paulo and finally arriving in Santo Andre, where they live. In some schools, an electronic election was held, with computer voting. After the 30 junior representatives of the city were elected, they looked for problems that affected children in the schools and city, and made demands, such as the construction of leisure areas and better care for squares and streets. The youngest children presented their complaints using drawings. The junior council participated in collaborative budget meetings for the city and met with the Mayor and public authorities.
Outcomes: The participants begin to concern themselves with issues that affect children in the city, such as the lack of public spaces in which to play. In 2014, they made 66 proposals to municipal authorities. They showed that they were articulate and aware and began to demand solutions to their claims. The children will continue to participate in discussions with the participative budget in 2015.