Social Media Support for the Occupation of Public Schools in São Paulo, Brazil

Social Media Support for the Occupation of Public Schools in São Paulo, Brazil

Cynthia H. W. Corrêa (University of São Paulo, Brazil)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2495-3.ch003
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Networked social movements have amplified the emancipation of protesters everywhere. In Brazil, a conflict arose after the São Paulo State Secretariat for Education announced the closing of 94 public schools, impacting 311,000 people. In response, about 30 students organized the occupation of the State School Fernão Dias Paes. Subsequently, the occupation spread to other schools. Based on a case study of the first school occupied in the city of São Paulo, this research aims to identify the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social media tools in generating and sustaining the successful occupation protest of public schools in São Paulo. This chapter covers theories on demonstrations initiated online, on the social panorama in Latin America and educational issues in Brazil. It also addresses and analyzes the occupation process at this school, which reached visibility and support at national and international levels using ICTs and social media, confirming the steps of occupy movements around the world.
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In contemporary times, social movements in different parts of the globe have gained visibility and won followers and supporters, regardless of origin and geographical location due to the power of information disseminated via the Internet and supported by information and communication technologies (ICTs), primarily using social networking sites. Diani (2000) identifies many reasons why computer-mediated communication (CMC) affects political activism significantly. For instance, communication technology allows setting up discussion groups for individuals interested in an issue, encouraging interaction. The World Wide Web offers the chance of making vital information for campaigners readily available from websites, and it also makes conceivable the independent existence of virtual coordination networks. In this context, Castells (2012) observes that networked social movements may well be a characteristic feature of the network society: the social structure of the Information Age. Besides, Internet social networks are autonomous spaces, largely beyond the control of governments and corporations, which have monopolized the channels of communication as the foundation of their power for decades.

In the panorama of Latin America, historically underlined by social conflicts, such as the struggle for land rights, labor exploitation, women’s oppression, and the fight for the right to housing, health and education, the Internet has been adopted as an alternative instrument to publicize the concerns of social demonstrations. Consequently, social networking services have been critical mechanisms for the promotion and organization of social crusades, against the position of the mass media that often foster political and economic views of entrepreneurs and government supporters, which tends to silence the citizen’s voice.

Despite the recent democratization of access to public education in Brazil, disputes in the field of public education are still commonplace. The struggles have tended to focus on the appreciation of teachers and professors, improving the quality of teaching, and the right to participate in decision-making bodies. One conflict faced by students and teachers in São Paulo, the richest state in Latin America, occurred late in the second half of 2015. It received national and international attention based on the strategic assistance of ICTs and social media triggered when the São Paulo State Secretariat for Education announced through the mass media, especially on television, the closure of 94 public schools, affecting 311,000 students who were enrolled in elementary and secondary education. To oppose the governmental resolution, about 30 students, boys and girls between 12 and 17 years-old, organized a protest that culminated in the occupation of the State School Fernão Dias Paes, in the Pinheiros neighborhood of São Paulo city in November 2015. It was the first school occupied by students in the capital that resulted in the interruption of classes and other activities.

The campaign of the social movement through social networking sites equivalent to Facebook and YouTube obtained the full attention of society, which started to contribute in various ways, such as by providing food and informal education options. Considering the high level of mobilization and empowerment of students participating, the research question proposed in this chapter is, “What was the role of ICTs and social media tools in generating and sustaining a successful occupation protest of public schools in São Paulo?” Answering this question will support the results of many other research studies that have addressed occupation related to online mobilization, for example, the Occupy Movement in New York City, the 15-M Movement in Spain and the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, from a Brazilian point of view. The idea is to observe a different cultural condition, age group, complaints to recognize some contextual differences that could be important to future protesters around the world.

This investigation has the following specific objectives:

  • To present social actions around the occupation of schools that occurred in the state of São Paulo, at the end of 2015.

  • To examine the strategic use of ICTs and social media in diverse situations.

  • To analyze how social networking sites mobilized students and civil society, being decisive for the communication and success of the protest.

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