Matthew Hoffman


Persecuted homeschoolers wow Brazilians by winning numerous prizes in academic contests

Matthew Hoffman

MINAS GERAIS, BRAZIL, June 1, 2012, ( - Two homeschooled boys, whose parents have been repeatedly fined and criminally convicted by Brazilian government officials for refusing to participate in the public school system, are impressing observers in Brazil and around the world by winning a number of academic contests.

Jonatas and Davi Nunes first made headlines five years ago when, at the ages of 13 and 14 respectively, they passed a law school entrance test. Now 18 and 19, they have won the equivalent of $15,000 in contest prize money during the first four months of this year for their achievements in computer science.

Their recent victories include the Mário Covas Award, a prize given by the state of São Paulo for innovative ideas related to government administration. Working together, the two won first place in one category and placed second in another, for a new design for the state’s web portal and and online educational service.

Davi has also recently won first place in the Open Innovation contest held by the Brazilian online retailer Submarino, the author of the most creative and innovative ideas submitted, which includes $5,000 worth of items sold by the company. Both Davi and Jonatas have been awarded an all-expense-paid trip to California in August to the U.S. Campus Party, a brainstorming meeting for computer science enthusiasts.

The two brothers are now preparing the commercial launch of two products they have designed using their skills in programming and multimedia.

The Nunes family gained international notoriety in 2008, when Cleber Nunes and his wife Bernadeth began to be prosecuted by government officials for having removed their two sons from the public school system to educate them at home.

During two sets of civil and criminal trials, the Nunes strove to prove that their children were not only educated adequately at home, but excelled well beyond their peers. In addition to passing law school exams at a very young age, in 2008 Brazilian courts subjected the two to rigorous tests that public school teachers admitted to being unable to pass. Yet both Davi and Jonatas passed the exams.

Despite these victories, the Nunes lost both the civil and criminal trials. They were ordered to pay fines totaling more than $3,200, and risked imprisonment and losing custody of their children. They have refused to pay the fines, but have never been incarcerated.  At the time of their convictions, their children had already reached their 16th birthday, and truancy laws no longer applied. However, their daughter Ana, who is now five years old, will soon be subject to the same laws. Ana, who is already being homeschooled by her parents, is able to read and write. She is also fluent in English.

The Nunes and others who have been persecuted under Brazil’s educational laws may find hope in the recent creation of the Mixed Parliamentary Front for Home Education, a coalition of legislators in the National Congress who support the legalization of homeschooling in Brazil. 

The organization, which is lead by Deputy Lincoln Portela, has 200 supporters in the Congress.


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