The Federal University of the North of Tocantins (UFNT), created in July 2019, did not open a competitive examination for hiring professors and technical-administrative employees and suffers from cuts in investments by the Jair Bolsonaro government (no party) in higher education.
To guarantee the university’s functioning by the end of 2021, the rectory was forced to make budgetary adjustments and depends on parliamentary amendments.
The only federal university created from a law sanctioned by Bolsonaro, UFNT is the result of a project authored by former president Dilma Rousseff (PT).
The institution was born from the dismemberment of two campuses of the Federal University of Tocantins (UFT), in Araguaína (TO) and Tocantinópolis (TO). The initial project of the Ministry of Education (MEC) foresaw the installation of two other campuses, in Xambioá (TO) and Guaraí (TO), which have not yet come out of the paper.
Since the presidential sanction, two years ago, no new undergraduate courses have been opened at UFNT. The first will be inaugurated this year, on the Tocantinópolis campus – there will be 40 places for the Law course, authorized by the MEC in 2020.
The first class of Law is added to another 18 undergraduate courses at UFNT that already existed under the name of UFT before the Bolsonaro government – four in Tocantinópolis and 13 in Araguaína, in addition to 10 postgraduate programs.
The physical structure, servers and professors who currently work at the university created by Bolsonaro are also legacies of previous administrations.
When he sanctioned the UFNT creation law, Bolsonaro declared that he was inaugurating a “different way of looking at public education” in the country.
Professor of Geography and pro-tempore dean at UFNT, Airton Sieben says he does not know the content of the president’s speech.
“For us, there was no special guidance. At the time of its creation, there was a great deal of discussion around the Future-se program, which provided for another form of university management, but later this subject lost strength”, he recalls.
According to information from the federal government, Future-se intended to give “greater financial autonomy to universities and institutes by promoting their own fundraising and entrepreneurship.”
The program was one of the flags of the MEC under the administration of Abraham Weintraub, but was rejected by student and teacher organizations and dropped off the agenda after the resignation and flight of the former minister to the US, in June 2020.
Impacts of the pandemic
Sieben actively participated in the UFNT design process five years ago. He reports that the covid-19 pandemic, without adequate access to technology for remote learning, caused student dropout.
“We had about four thousand students, but there was a reduction, unfortunately, due to the pandemic. Updated numbers, we still don’t have. From what was previously presented to me, it is around 25% [de evasão]”, it says.
“We have students who come from indigenous communities, quilombolas, where access to the internet is more difficult.”
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From the point of view of structuring the university, the health crisis was not an obstacle. On the contrary, the need to hold meetings virtually even streamlined the processes, in the view of the dean.
100% remote teaching also contributed, through crooked lines, to budget management.
“We had to make some budget adjustments, internally, to be able to reach the end of the year. And this will only be possible because we have remote teaching”, admits the pro-tempore dean, noting that expenses increase with on-site classes.
“Nothing against face-to-face, and I think it should come back at the right time, but the compression of discretionary expenses would prevent us from reaching 2021 with face-to-face teaching.”
squeeze from here, squeeze from there
UFNT does not have any administrative structure other than the temporary position held by Sieben since July 2020.
“We are awaiting the release of commissioned positions, so that we can form a team of pro-rectors and directors”, says the pro-tempore dean. His management is supported by Working Groups (WGs) formed by other teachers, voluntarily.
According to the annual budget law (LOA), UFNT’s funding for 2021 is approximately R$ 11 million.
“Unfortunately, we had a drop in the universities’ resources to invest in current expenses, such as paying for water, electricity, security, in addition to scholarships and student aid programs. We had a reduction, from 2020 to 2021, of what was foreseen in the pre-LOA for the LOA”, laments the dean.
“This budget reduction puts all federal institutions in a complicated situation, especially with regard to the maintenance of ongoing contracts – energy, surveillance, cleaning, building maintenance, among others. We also have difficulties with cuts in the National Student Assistance Plan (Pnaes), which affects the permanence of thousands of students at the university.”
Thanks to remote education and parliamentary amendments pleaded by deputy Célio Moura (PT-TO), it was possible to adjust the accounts and even shift part of the budget to housing allowance and residence allowance, partially offsetting the cuts in the Pnaes.
“It is a needy region, which has many quilombolas, indigenous territories. In general, it is a vulnerable social profile, a public that needs this student assistance”, emphasizes Sieben.
“However, there was no way for us to make a more drastic relocation or adjustment, because it [orçamento] it is already plastered, for payments that the university must already make”, he ponders.
Forecasts for new vacancies and new campuses
The law that created the UFNT provided for 316 new management positions, with gratified and commissioned functions, and 175 permanent positions for the university. So far, no competitions have been opened for these vacancies.
“This is one of our great difficulties: the lack of [servidores] technical-administrative. There is also a need for competitions for teachers”, says the dean, who is awaiting authorization to fill the vacancies in 2022.
“What we had were sporadic competitions for vacant positions, some dismissal or retirement. But, for new vacancies, both for professors and for administrative technicians, they haven’t been done yet”, he emphasizes.
Only after these hirings should the expansion of the university enter the agenda.
“With regard to the future campuses of Guaraí and Xambioá, this depends on political articulation. We need political support and resources, in terms of capital, investment, as well as the availability of civil servants, professors and administrative technicians, in addition to the entire structure of course offerings”, lists Sieben.
Another concern of the dean is the absence of an information technology (IT) structure for the new rectory in Araguaína. In his opinion, the computer equipment that is available is “obsolete” and needs to be replaced, but there is no budget for purchases of this nature.
O Brazil in fact contacted the MEC and presented the information found on the difficulties in structuring the UFNT. The report will be updated as soon as there is a return.
Edition: Leandro Melito