Lemann and Brazilian education

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By AFRANIO CATANI*

Commentary on a statement by Jorge Paulo Lemann

reading the Folha de S. Paul On April 10, 2022, a sunny Sunday, I was surprised by a short article by Rafael Balago, on page A 21, entitled “Brazil will have a new president next year, says Jorge Paulo Lemann”. I was intrigued. Lemann, according to the magazine Examination (10.04.2022), is the richest man in Brazil, with a net worth of US$15,4 billion (R$71,6 billion), slightly lower than last year's US$16,9 billion.

Well, I imagined two things: either he is exercising his gifts as a python from the periphery – yes, because the elections take place in the second half of this year and the president is sworn in on 1o. of January 2023 – which, let's face it, are not that exceptional, or is stating, in ciphered form, that the new Brazilian president will not be the current president. It will be ? I was in doubt.

In a statement to the newspaper The Globe (16.12.2019), he was enchanted with the captain's government, especially with what was conventionally called “Posto Ipiranga”: “Paulo Guedes' course was correct. He could have less agitation on the political part ”. Oh good. The government made up of members who do not condemn political positions in favor of torture and rape (but only by those who deserve it), who would like to provide pandemic aid in a single installment of just R$ 200,00, which it reduced to a level little considering the material conditions of existence of large segments of the population or that went years and years without making any correction in the income tax rates, could, in Lemann's view, lead the country with "less agitation in politics", placidly, without that there was any reaction on the part of those affected. No fuss, please.

Another who is very rich, but eats dust on the list of billionaires that the Helvetician-Leblonian leads, located a little far from the podium, is Abílio Diniz (US$ 3 billion), also far from the Verdeamarelista Luciano Hang (US$ 5,2, 8,9 billion) and, even more, from Carlos Alberto Sicupira (US$ XNUMX billion), Lemann's partner. The former owner of Pão de Açúcar stated, enchanted, in the Folha de S. Paul (12.01.2020): “my assessment [of the government] is highly positive”.

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to mention Cândido Bracher, then president of Itaú Unibanco and currently a columnist at Sheet. In an interview with Alexia Salomão (25.01.2020), he praised the national Executive power and melted like butter on a hot plate when, following some debates at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, he commented that Paulo Guedes “acquired so much credibility for what he delivered in the economy that, eventually, it wouldn't be bad if he also had greater influence on environmental policy in Brazil, could demand: “Look here, this is important for Brazil's economy. If the abundance of reasons for the defense of the environment is not enough, he can argue that it is important for the economy”. And, right after, he reveals the reason for so much admiration for the minister: “Our investment bank is having a record year”. Honestly, I was scared, because I thought, perhaps naively, that all the bank manager's enthusiasm referred to the government's social projects, to the dignified living conditions that a good policy involving our climate, our environment, could offer to all Brazilians. Pity…

But let's go back to Jorge Paulo Lemann. At the event held in Boston, organized by students from Harvard and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), the Brazil Conference, stated: “My basic objective in Brazil is to try to improve education. We are preparing a new kit on how to improve education in Brazil, which is what I think Brazil needs most”.

Maybe we can now be calm, because the JP Kit should solve our educational ills. Even more so when we read that Lemann and his partners also invest in basic education, investing in Eleva Educação, a group that had just snapped up 51 schools in Cogna (formerly Kroton). “The movement meant that he had, in his investment portfolio, the largest basic education group in the world in terms of number of students”, reveals the Wikipedia.

Harvard-educated Lemann is featured in the Wikipedia as “businessman, investor, entrepreneur, author, philanthropist”, he was a successful tennis player, playing Davis Cups in Switzerland and Brazil, becoming a banker in the 1970s. Carlos Alberto Sicupira, received authorization to convert the brokerage they owned into a financial institution, creating Banco Garantia. Two decades at the head of this bank meant that the trio had their assets multiplied exponentially. However, you can read the Wikipedia that the bank “was accused of having collaborated with the financial pyramid scheme set up by Bernard Madoff, in addition to having been fined by the Central Bank for the practice of exchange fraud, irregular operations and illegal remittance of money abroad”.

Afterwards, the businesses of Jorge Paulo and his partners diversified: they bought Lojas Americanas, the Brahma brewery – which, in 1999, with the merger with Antárctica, gave rise to AMBEV –, created GP Investimentos, with significant stakes in Telemar , Gafisa, América Latina Logística, among other companies. So as not to tire the reader, suffice it to say that the group now owns the largest brewery in the world, the chain of fast food Burger King, of restaurant chains, in addition to the North American ketchup maker Heinz, acquired in 2015 for US$ 23,2 billion. There is also the Diletto ice cream parlor, as well as its activities in the educational field.

With Fundação Estudar, a non-profit organization, it funds scholarships at undergraduate, graduate and leadership levels. I still read, Wikipedia, that in 2015, “several journalists investigated the Movement Come to the Street, and in March of the same year they revealed that Fundação Estudar financed and provided operational support to the movement”. And he concludes: “One of the former scholarship holders of the [Foundation] program is federal deputy Tabata Amaral”. Ufa! I think that leadership formed within such an organization must not have watched the movie I, Daniel Baker (Ken Loach, 2016), otherwise Tabata might not have voted in favor of the recent social security reform, which removed a set of social rights from Brazilian workers.

There is the equally important non-profit Lemann Foundation, created in 2002, “which offers scholarship programs at elite universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. According to the executive director of the Foundation, the objective is to train leaders to work with social impact in Brazil”. And one should not forget that there is the Tennis Institute (2002), supported by them, and that Jorge Paulo is one of the sponsors of the Insper business school, which holds the Lemann Foundation Chair, which sponsors academic research.

The businessman says in the aforementioned article, by Rafael Balago, that he is “trying to improve education in terms of making people capable of participating in the economy of startups or even be competitive in the world”. I'm a good gentleman and I wouldn't like to doubt Lemann's good intentions, who want to alleviate our educational problems. But will this happen through the creation of elite private schools and/or the elaboration and diffusion of kits? Wouldn't there be a need to put into practice solid, inclusive and quality educational policies, implemented by a government effectively committed to the social segments that until now have been neglected or little benefited? Could it be that such leadership training programs could not argue that without a certain mockery of the welfare state, even if somewhat lame, here in the tropics, exclusion and misery would experience a great increase?

But what still continues to unsettle me is the contents of that JP kit. And what if through it tabathites are formed by the heaps? What will we do?

*Afranio Catani He is a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and is currently a senior professor at the same institution. Visiting professor at the Faculty of Education of UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus.

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