|Taping Vou te Contar (image credit Museu da Pesso)|
Brazil is a visual, cultural, and ecological wonderland, hosting towering rainforest canopies, a stunning coastline, the glorious Amazon River -- natural resources a plenty, and renowned cultural diversity.
Yet this beautiful sensory experience is also juxtaposed with economic extremes – wealth and abundance, and nearly abject poverty -- in most cases, triggered by stark educational disparities, which have further exacerbated the cyclical nature of poverty in an otherwise beautiful nation.
It is here that the aesthetically and intellectually fascinating aspects of this South American giant ironically become burdens. The staggering size of the nation – allowing it to host such wondrous natural diversity and an abundance of peoples – coupled with the cornucopia of cultures and dialects – have in turn, made access to proper education next to impossible for many.
And so, in 1997, came about Canal Futura, a project of the Robert Marinho Foundation aimed at closing the educational divide by increasing access to educational materials, through the use of technology – namely, television.
Taking advantage of the fact that nearly all Brazilians have access to television, Canal Futura became Brazil's first television channel aimed entirely at educational programming. Airing educational programming around the clock, Futura reaches an audience of 33 million.
In a country where only half of the population reaches high school, Futura is providing access to educational resources to a population which never thought it possible.
The topics offered are broad, and programming is scheduled in a way so as to best reach its varying viewership, which is comprised of children and adults, alike. Futura names its target audience as “children, young people, workers, housewives and teachers, and primarily the low-income population.” In many cases, partnerships with local social or educational organizations create programs particularly geared at local populations providing them with knowledge that will serve them in day-to-day life and helping mobilize communities.
Topics include everything from teaching small business skills, to addressing human rights issues, to encouraging drug prevention, to creating environmental awareness, and of course, to standard educational programming for the various age groups tuning in throughout the day.
Canal Futura’s goals lie much deeper than television viewership, though. Futura is committed to celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of Brazilian culture and its peoples, and the vital interdependence between all Brazilians, regardless of socioeconomic differences, as well as the importance of community empowerment, increased dialogue, and individual enterprise. It showcases these topics and goals through its television programs, and through its ongoing relationships with community organizations, schools, libraries, churches, hospitals, unions, individuals, and corporations.
Canal Futura's mission statement says it best: bringing “to the entire Brazilian population, especially to the children and working class, knowledge that can be applied on their daily lives, therefore, generating changes in attitude and behavior, which in turn will ensure a better chance to enter the job market and deal with family life, school life, and social life, consequently giving them a superior quality of life.” Canal Futura's goals speak volumes -- and clearly, Brazil is listening.