Diego Faria Lima reformed a school from drug & dropouts to a reference school


Addiction and youngsters together are really difficult to handle and it’s not only the responsibility of human right activists or social reformers to discard this social evil. Teachers are the most accessible person who can shift the mind and channelize the energies towards more healthy and detoxified life.

Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima

Diego Mahfouz faria Lima, a teacher at Darcy Ribeiro School, Brazil, has been named a top 10 finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2018, which was announced recently by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

He took over a school with problems such as vandalism, high evasion rates and even drug trafficking and transformed it into a reference school in the region.

When Diego arrived to lead his school it was notorious for being the most violent and drug-ridden in the area with the highest dropout rates. Parents were afraid to enrol their children there and staff turnover was high. Teachers were discouraged and tended to punish rather than reward their students. He has transformed the school by involving students, parents, teachers, school staff and the community.

How He Struggled

Starting with how students and their families see the school, Diego sought help to completely refurbish it, despite limited finances. He persuaded local businesses and nearby schools to donate materials. Parents, staff and students worked together to paint and maintain the buildings. The change was made public when in the first days of term all school employees greeted new students with welcome posters and coffee.

Diego has implemented many projects to improve the school. A student card system to track attendance has reduced truancy. The opening of the school library to the community, which has attracted donations from across the city, has improved student literacy. And he has focused on teaching standards and practice, stemming from his belief that “everyone in the school community is an educator and therefore learns and teaches.”

The school now has strong links with the whole community. Students feel they have a voice and are listened to and the majority of parents attend school meetings. Projects to mediate conflicts and violence and reduce absenteeism have worked. Most of all the school now has a place within the community and everyone knows they are welcome.

To achieve this, he created actions such as the opening of the school in the weekends for the teaching of classical music, an astronomy club and even a mediation committee for conflicts.

“The fights at the school entrance happened nearly daily. With this committee, the students themselves began to identify situations such as conflicts, bullying, and to call the parts involved in a dialogue,” he explained.

Currently, with 930 students, Darcy Ribeiro doesn’t punish the students anymore. “We removed the punitive aspect from the school. Things are solved through dialogue, we changed the view of the students and staff,” said the professor. According to him, before he took over, the school had an average of 60 notices and suspensions of students per week. Now, it doesn’t suspend anymore.

Global Teacher Prize

Varkey Foundation, a British charity organization, and sponsored by the UAE’s prime minister and vice-president, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Global Teacher Prize takes place since 2014 and offers a prize of USD 1 million to the winner.

We’ve already seen why Lima has been selected. His contribution is extraordinary not just for that particular school but to the society as well. Which will have more responsible citizens than having clueless and addictive youth.

Bill Gates while announcing the shortlisted candidates for the prestigious award has said, “When you think about what drives progress and development in the world, education is a key factor, which opens up many opportunities for countless people and societies. Research has shown that having a great teacher can become the most important element that determines when a student receives a good education. The finalists have been selected based on a set of rigorous criteria, including the demonstrated effectiveness in inspiring their students and helping them learn."

He added further, "They have demonstrated the kind of collaboration (the joint work of teachers and educational institutions) that can give students the opportunity to receive a great education." In case Lima wins the award, he will invest the money on the foundation of an NGO to broaden the scope of his projects.

Get the latest news & live updates related to the Education Sector at BEYOND TEACHING. Download the Beyond Teaching app for your device. Read more Education news.