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Brazil is enormous. It is vast in its territory, diverse in its people, plural in its ideas, and – as would be expected – enormously complex in its challenges. We currently occupy the 57th position in the Programme for International Student Assessment global rankings, which puts our children’s educational performance in the bottom third. Incredibly, fully half of Brazil’s public school students are still illiterate by third grade. Brazil suffers from a bona fide learning crisis. But Brazil’s problems go beyond education. While we have one of the highest GDPs, we are at the same time the seventh most unequal country in the world (UNDP). In fact, we are the only nation that finds ourselves on the Top 10 list for both GDP and income inequality. Almost half of all Brazilians don’t have access to basic sanitation. More than 12 percent of the working-agepopulation, 12 million people in all, are unemployed and informal employment rates have reached an all-time high (IBGE). In the face of these dispiriting realities, the Lemann Foundation has remained unflaggingly committed to making Brazil fairer, more inclusive, and more developed. We invest in the country’s most powerful resource: people.

To advance Brazil’s development with equity we must do nothing less than unlock the potential of its children and future leaders by ensuring a high-quality public school education and empowering social changemakers committed to a more just and equal Brazil. Our strategy focuses on helping build the large-scale, systemic initiatives that enable coherent education policies and foster collaboration between leaders, school managers and teachers who together set high expectations for all students. We closed out 2019 working hand-in-hand with 50 municipal and state education departments, having provided them with technical support, training programs, curriculum development, and instructional policies. We have already helped enhance the education and lives of almost 2 million students with our cost-effective, multi-year partnerships.

Reversing inequality at scale also demands unleashing the power of the current generation of rising leaders dedicated to social transformation in Brazil. The nation’s many challenges require the engagement of courageous, well-prepared leaders. The Foundation is working to provide a critical mass of changemakers with the resources they need to make Brazil a more just and equal place. In total, the Foundation has supported more than 700 Brazilians, including seven who have been elected to national and state office and more than 100 who now work in federal or local government. This, in addition to a whole legion of social entrepreneurs, public managers, third-sector leaders, and researchers dedicated to providing the knowledge that can be put to use to make Brazil a better place for everyone.

The international headlines have attested to 2019 being a divisive year in Brazil. Through it all, the Lemann Foundation has kept plugging away at its mission to bring people to work together to help Brazilians have a fair shot at achieving their full potential.

That does not mean the job is done. Far from it. But there has been measurable progress, which proves that we can bring about concrete changes that make a brighter future for all. It also
proves that dialogue is essential. Brazil’s challenges are deeply rooted in our complex history and require the engagement and commitment of many people with diverse worldviews and experiences. It is in this collaborative spirit, the Lemann Foundation forges forward into 2020 working alongside 125 institutional partners, eight international universities, five Foundation-funded national and international research centers, as wel as dozens of education departments across all 26 states. Through this collaboration, and with the dedication of a diverse network of leaders, we are making a difference. In 2020, we will accomplish even more. Because we are convinced that when Brazilians reach their full potential, so will Brazil.

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