Brazilians teach and do research in Aswan
Each year, an Egyptian university opens calls for professors and researchers looking to teach in its graduate course in Portuguese Language. Scholars from Brazil’s Tocantins, Mato Grosso and Goiás states are involved.
São Paulo – Brazilian professors are teaching classes and doing research at Egypt’s Aswan University, which seeks out Portuguese speakers to teach at its graduate course in Portuguese Language. The first class opened in October 2015, and professors Wagner Rodrigues Silva, of the Federal University of Tocantins (UFT), Hérica Pinheiro, of the University of the State of Mato Grosso (Unemat), and Maria Elaine Mendes, of Instituto Federal Goiano, are among the faculty members.
The university’s Department of Portuguese Language issues calls for entries every year. According to the Department’s coordinator Maged ElGebaly, professors get selected for fields including Portuguese language, literature, culture or history, depending on the courses’ needs. Research-oriented applicants are preferable.
Besides teaching lessons in Aswan, the Brazilians also do research. Silva is a former director of Research at the UFT Office of the Provost for Research and Postgraduate Studies, in addition to teaching both in graduate and postgraduate courses. One of the leaders of the Language Practices group at the Tocantins University, Silva researches the impact of written school work in the lives of students at different educational levels. In Egypt, he is taking a postdoctoral internship and working on the subject of literacy among graduate students.
“I strive to develop a critical approach of literacy in the teaching of Brazilian Portuguese as an additional language, in a bid to empower Egyptian students for social practices related to writing, within different social spheres,” Silva told ANBA by email. The research is done in the classroom and in daily interactions in Aswan, he explains. His work is based on the Universal Declaration on Linguistic Rights and on three of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, including the reduction of inequality within and among countries.
“The additional language lessons, through the critical approach to literacy that’s implemented, can present themselves as a space for integrating the Egyptian and Brazilian cultures, rather than a space for student assimilation, i.e. deculturalization, or superimposition of Brazil’s culture to Egypt’s. We have written accounts from students stating that they have uncovered aspects of their own local culture as a result of classroom learning activities,” he says.
Silva holds a degree in Language from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), master’s and doctorate degrees in Applied Linguistics from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), and a postdoctoral degree in the same field from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The postdoctoral internship he is taking in Aswan is his second, and will be completed at the Egyptian university. He teaches Portuguese classes to 27 students.
Hérica, of Unemat, teaches History of Portuguese Literature and text classes at the Aswan University. She holds a Language degree and a master’s in Literary Studies from Unemat, the latter of which is offered in partnership with the Postgraduate Program in Comparative Portuguese Language Studies of the University of São Paulo (USP).
In the past, she has taught Portuguese in East Timor. “With the Aswan University call for entries I saw a chance to follow through with my doctoral research work into the teaching of Portuguese literature to speakers of other languages,” she explains. The doctoral project is carried out in tandem with professors ElGebaly and Ana Arnaut, of the University of Coimbra, and also involves Hérica’s East Timor experience. She will complete her doctorate studies at both institutions.
In class in Aswan, Hérica works on theory-based reading of literary genres. She builds on Paulo Freire’s method for developing critical thinking. The professor claims that her research field, the teaching of Portuguese literature to speakers of other languages, is a fertile ground for studying supranational relations and the interplay of different cultures involving Portuguese-speaking and Arab countries.
*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum