Why Recife and Why Now?

04/08/2014 | By Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

This post originally appeared on blog.up.co

For the first time in my life, I will be traveling to Recife, Brazil. As is the typical reaction whenever you tell someone you are headed to Brazil, most of my friends envision me headed on a tropical vacation filled with beautiful beaches, delicious food, and lively cultural experiences. Although those are all things I definitely hope to get the chance to engage in while I am there (if you see a picture like this pop up in your news feed, then you know that hope was realized), that is not the purpose of my trip. I am actually headed to Recife with one intention and one intention only: to collaborate with local leaders to foster a community that's empowered to utilize entrepreneurship to solve Recife's, and perhaps even all of Brazil's, biggest education problems.


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But why Recife? And why now? Good questions! Those are the same ones I posed to the Organizers as they set out on their journey to launch the second Startup Weekend Education to ever take place in all of South America. Meet this incredible group of guys, and find out why they're so passionate about fostering education entrepreneurship in the city they grew up in.

Gerson Ribeiro is an emboldened entrepreneur and consultant. He is the founder of Gymbo, an educational startup for high school students. Previously, Gerson taught Math, Chemistry and Physics, and now he teachers Digital Marketing for tech entrepreneurs.

Hiro Miyakawa is a seasoned developer, and is heavily involved in the entrepreneurial community of Recife, organizing events such as TEDxRecife, TEDxRecifeAntigo, and TEDxUFPE. He is passionate about teaching his native language, Japanese, to Brazilians.

Vinícius Lira is the Director of Citi, one of the largest education technology companies in Recife, focused on helping students learn business by doing. He is also an experienced developer.

Luiz Fernando Gomes is a mathematician who taught students ages 11-17 for 5 years. During his time as a teacher, he pioneered many technology integration initiatives at his school. Now, he is responsible for the operations in Lotebox, a startup that he launched at Startup Weekend Recife, which took place earlier this year.

What do you think are some of the biggest problems in education in Recife (or Brazil, in general)?

Brazil performs below the average in mathematics, reading, and science among the 65 countries and economies that participated in the 2012 PISA assessment of 15-year-olds. This situation is even more drastic in the Northeast area of Brazil, which is where Recife resides. These low academic rates are often times attributed to political interests, poorly designed educational plans, and misuse of public resources. However, Recife, which is the state capital, is one of the leading cities that is heading towards improving its educational system.

What impact are you hoping Startup Weekend Education Recife will have on solving these problems?

Lately, the career opportunities for educators in Recife have been dwindling, and because of this, more educators are entering the local entrepreneurial community. As a result, new possibilities are emerging for how we go about solving educational problems, and new resources are being provided to help people transform their ideas into sustainable businesses.

Recife has a lot of potential to create technology innovations due to new public benefits that are given to "creative economy" businesses. Educators, however, are not yet inserted and connected in this network. Bringing technologists, entrepreneurs, and educators together via Startup Weekend Education is our goal, which we think will have a huge impact in developing our edtech community.

Foto: Andréa Rêgo Barros/PCR

Why is this the right time for Recife to have a Startup Weekend Education?

We're living in a very important time in Brazil where everybody is talking about developing students' skills and abilities. Our country has received terrible ratings in education reports, so increasingly more people here are recognizing that our education system needs to be fixed, and it's about time people stop talking and actually start the revolution!

Recife has always been a place of opportunity and a welcome home to those who want to change things. This time is no different. Constantly there are new opportunities for what education can be. The only problem is, that there's a disconnection between educators and technology.

What type of experience and knowledge are your Speakers, Coaches, and Judges bringing to the event?

The people we have chosen to contribute their expertise to this event meet the following requirements:

  • They must have experience in education, either as Educators or Developers of solutions in education.
  • They must understand technological opportunities in the market
  • They must have the entrepreneurial spirit

The experts, the environment, and the opportunities - we are expecting that these three  things coupled together will inspire our participants to want to change the world through education innovation!

The Time is Now!

After several months of planning, Startup Weekend Education Recife is finally right around the corner! Debuting this Friday, April 11th, the Organizing Team has already invested countless hours in creating a space for the people of Recife to question the status quo, generate creative solutions, and work as united teams to push the education system forward. For me, personally, I am absolutely honored to be a part of it, and I cannot wait to see what ripple effect this event has throughout the entire country of Brazil. We'll be posting updates and pictures from the event all weekend, so be sure to Like the Facebook Page, and follow the Twitter handle, so that you can stay updated on everything #SWEDURecife!