In times of increasing precarity, schools and their potential for transformation are the torch taken up by the young people of ColetivA Ocupação. The group was formed in 2017, out of the historic high school student movement in Brazil that, in 2015 and 2016, paralyzed government officials and their attempts to shut down approximately 100 public schools in the state of São Paulo, which would have resulted in staff lay-offs, classroom overcrowding, and weakening of instruction. School occupations spread like wildfire and within weeks around 200 school spaces were overtaken. Images of barricades made from stacked chairs and desks, banners hung from school windows, occupied recess yards, and the fierce solidarity between students and the community became new symbols of the student protest movement. It was a defining experience, and, after the two-month occupation, students kept the struggle going as a channel for seeking change.
Alvim Silva, a resident of city of Itapevi, in greater São Paulo, and one of ColetivA Ocupação’s first members, was an active participant in the 2015 occupations, both in initiatives he’d already been carrying out and what came later. Silva began his work as an activist in 2014, participating in collectives and student protest groups. In 2016, he participated in the occupation of Fábrica de Cultura do Capão Redondo and Casa das Rosas, two initiatives by the art movement against budget cuts to arts and culture. Silva also attended theatre workshops at the Casa de Cultura do Butantã, where he learned about the active body politic. In 2016, just after his high school graduation, he joined the other members of ColetivA. According to Silva, initially the group’s main concern was generating memories: “in the beginning, it was more about reclaiming memories of the 2015 occupations and the history of high school student protests in Brazil. We assembled a large collection of footage of grievances and records from the movement. Over time, however, it became apparent that we had to question the inside and the outside, the territory occupied by these activities and the people connected with the collective”.