Student occupations of 2016

Jackson Pollock, Untitled, c. 1950


Preface to the recently released book by Rodrigo Lima

This book, written by Rodrigo Lima, analyzes the process of school occupations by high school students, with emphasis on the process that took place at the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina, in 2016. Nationally, the process peaked in the state of São Paulo, as students' responses to the so-called “school reorganization”, understand the closure of schools, by the then governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB).

In São Paulo, more than 200 schools were occupied, spreading to other states, such as Goiás, Mato Grosso, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul. In the state of Santa Catarina, students from federal institutes were protagonists of this process , materialized in the occupation of campuses of the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina and the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina in dozens of cities.

In his book, Rodrigo Lima locates these struggles within the historical framework that began with the contradictory process of June 2013. In that process, a young vanguard tired of the lack of basic conditions on the part of the State entered the scene, having exploded the struggle around the public transport in São Paulo. At the national and municipal level, these were PT governments, headed by Dilma Rousseff and Fernando Haddad, respectively. These governments, while making promises of improvement for the poorest population, guaranteed the interests of bankers and the bourgeoisie.

A new generation of young people dissatisfied with the country's situation saw the need to mobilize, but at the same time, they found themselves without direction. The main workers' and students' organizations had been co-opted by the PT governments, causing mobilizations to be scarce for years and the struggles to be aimed exclusively at putting pressure on the government and parliament.

In 2013, there was a void of leadership and, even though the confusing agenda of the first mobilizations was clearly progressive, it didn't take long for right-wing demagogues to insert themselves into this movement and transform fair struggles into exclusive reactionary demands to destroy the PT. As a result, right-wing demagogues, whether in organized movements, such as the MBL, or hypocritical politicians, such as Jair Bolsonaro, gained space. The toga-wearing Bonapartist soon arrived on the scene to also help overthrow the PT government legally. The corollary of this process was the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the arrest of Lula.

However, within the scope of the struggles, the willingness of workers and youth did not cool down, and Rodrigo Lima clearly shows this. The Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro governments implemented measures against the rights of workers and youth, such as pension and labor reforms, imposed the “spending cap” and approved the secondary education reform. In each of these attacks, workers and youth mobilized and fought, but, at all times, in addition to facing the right organized around State institutions, they unfortunately also counted on the immobility of the workers' leadership, which primarily envisioned a return to central government, preferably with Lula.

In the field of education, in addition to the New Secondary Education, the State has seen actions such as the closing of schools or the attack and censorship of teachers through aberrations such as the “School without party” movement. In the case of federal institutes, even though there was a PT government for years, it did not mean that the situation was different. Rodrigo Lima rescues in his book the process of creating federal institutes, starting in 2008, around the restructuring of technical and agrotechnical schools and federal technology centers that then existed. This expansion, largely to the interior of the states, took place without guaranteeing a basic operating structure for the campuses.

In Santa Catarina, two distinct experiences were seen. The IFSC was born from the expansion into the interior of the former CEFET, with units being created in cities located in different regions of the state. The IFC, in turn, was born from the merger of existing agricultural schools, also expanding across different regions. In both cases, for different reasons, new institutional structures were seen marked by pedagogical and structural fragmentation. Furthermore, vices such as “caciquismo” persist on the part of many managers who came from previous institutions.

Therefore, when occupying the campuses in 2016, students from these institutions, although not always consciously, questioned the structures in place and the precarious expansion of technical and technological education at the federal level. Finally, they questioned what those institutions could offer for their professional training and even for their lives in the future, and demanded improvements.

Rodrigo Lima's book captures these particularities, especially when presenting the speech of individuals who participated in the occupation process. In this sense, it is rich material to understand the situation of the last ten years, marked precisely by the political situation opened up with the mobilizations of June 2013.

This book helps us understand how the awareness of these young people who were at the forefront of defending free, public education, and, if possible, for all, took place. And, also, it is a reflection on the part of these subjects about the pedagogical and institutional structure that has been implemented in the federal network, which, despite its merits, still needs many improvements.

*Michel Goulart da Silva He holds a PhD in history from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and a technical-administrative degree from the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina (IFC).


Rodrigo Lima. We occupy the IFSC: student occupations at the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina. Porto Alegre: Polifonia, 2023. 148 pages.

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