By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman and Julio Severo

MINAS GERAIS, BRAZIL, March 6, 2008 ( – A Brazilian family in the town of Timóteo, in the state of Minas Gerais, has been threatened with imprisonment and the loss of custody of their children for the “crime” of homeschooling.

The couple, Cleber Andrade Nunes and his wife Bernadeth Nunes, removed their children from public school two years ago, concerned about immoral influences and low educational standards.

The Nunes’ children showed significant improvement, so much so that they passed law school entrance exams with high marks.  Their only problem is that at the ages of 14 and 13, they are not eligible for admission.

However, the success of the Nunes in educating their children has not impressed the socialist government of Brazil, which has ordered them to return the children to school and pay a fine equivalent to $1,800.  If they refuse, the children will be removed from their parents’ custody.

The plight of the Nunes family is shared by others in Brazil who have taken the initiative to homeschool their children.  Josue Bueno, a former Baptist minister, decided to homeschool his nine sons and daughters after learning about the practice during his adolescence in the United States.  He was motivated in part by the desire to shield his children from immoral influences in the schools.

But his attempt to live according to his religious beliefs proved to be costly.  He was accused in 2005 before the Tutelary Council, a child protective service. In the end Mr. Bueno and his family were ordered to submit to state “psychological treatment” and enroll the children in a school.

Their subsequent experience with the schools, however, has been a nightmare. “Our children were physically attacked by other students and even verbally humiliated by some teachers who made fun of them when they came to ask for help after being persecuted by their peers,” say the parents in a written statement.

“Ariel, our fourth child, was punished after reporting another student for beating her…She was taught in the classroom that a prostitute is a professional just like any other and should be respected.  The school teaches the idea of evolution not as a theory, but as something proven.  My oldest daughter was harassed by a female student who wanted to kiss her on the mouth, which she resisted.”

Ultimately the Buenos decided to flee to Paraguay, where they now live.  But even there they were not safe from pressure from the Brazilian government.  A court officer was sent to order them to return to Brazil and continue their “treatment”.  Although the Buenos remain where they are, they are afraid that the Brazilian government might somehow secure their deportation.

“People talk a lot about respect and diversity, but our different way of life was not respected. I am sure that if my sons were homosexual and my daughters lesbian they would have an overwhelming state protection,” says Josue Bueno.  “The school socializes them much more to violence, or disrespect, the values of a society that expelled God from its laws, from its schools and from its lives.”

In an interview with, Cleber Nunes said that the Brazilian school system is a proven failure, with low ranks given by domestic studies as well as by the International Student Assessment Program, which ranks Brazilian students at 57th worldwide in educational achievement.

He also cited disturbing statistics concerning social problems in Brazilian schools, including a study done in 2000 that found that 71% of students had suffered some kind of violence.  He said that condoms are distributed freely in dispensers to students as young as ten years old, and that “sex education” programs in the schools are little more than propaganda for sexual license.

Nunes says that despite the amazing progress of his children and the comparative failure of public schooling, the courts have so far insisted that he must return his children to the local public school. When he showed them the law school test results, he says, “They ignored (them) and went on with the process.  They said that the law must be fulfilled.”

However, unlike the Bueno case, the Nunes have received sympathetic attention from the national media, which has publicized the success of their homeschooling efforts.  Nunes is confident that his children will not be taken from him, despite the negative verdicts, which he is appealing with the help of volunteer attorneys. “The reason they are pointing (to) is so ridiculous that the foolishness would be shown to the entire nation,” he says.

“I think it time for the Brazilian society to shout that the emperor is naked!” Nunes told, observing that the failure of the system has been well publicized.

Nunes says that he has received many emails from Brazilians supporting his cause, and that other families in his area are interested in home schooling as well. “They don’t know how to do it.  That’s why we’re willing to help people.  Most of them think they can’t but the truth is that they don’t know they can….There is no Portuguese material available.  We want to translate some to help them.”

Nunes believes he will win, and is refusing to send his children back to school while he appeals the verdict against him. “I will fight until the end,” he says.  However, if he loses, he acknowledges that “as a last case” he will have to do what the Bueno family did: leave Brazil.

Contact Information:

Cleber Nunes (he speaks English) can be contacted at: [email protected]

Josue Bueno (also speaks English) can be contacted at: [email protected]

To contact the Brazilian Embassy:

Embassy of Brazil in the USA
  3006 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
  Washington, DC
  Phone: (202) 238-2700
  Fax: (202) 238-2827
  Email: [email protected]

Embassy of Brazil in Canada
  450 Wilbrod Street
  Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6M8
  Phone: (613) 237-1090 or (613) 755-5160
  Fax: (613) 237-6144
  E-mail: [email protected] 

Embassies of Brazil to other Nations: