Brazil looks for solutions after deadly day care attack kills four children

Parents in Blumenau, southern Brazil are struggling with how to explain to their children that a man slaughtered four of their friends at a daycare centre while Brazilians across the country are wondering what should be done to stem an apparently systemic rise of violence in schools.

Dozens of mourners gathered on-site as evening fell Wednesday to pray, lay flowers for the victims [aged between 5 and 7] and cry. At least four other children were wounded in the attack that shook the nation and put pressure on the government to find solutions.

Carlos Kroetz and other parents arrived to collect their children’s backpacks left behind at the centre during Wednesday morning’s mayhem.

“My daughter thinks a thief came in and ran away without harming anyone,” Kroetz said while holding his six-year-old’s Minnie Mouse bag. 

“She knew kids who died. We still have to figure out a way to tell her. For now, she is afraid of going to the bathroom by herself, because she thinks the thief will be there.”

Franciele Chequeto said one of the girls killed was friends with her seven-year-old son Gabriel.

“He wasn’t understanding,” Chequeto said. “I sat down and told him that he no longer will be able to see some of his little friends.”

Authorities have yet to give a motive for the attack by a man with a hatchet, but it follows a greater frequency of school attacks in Brazil in recent years.

Within hours, the federal government was scrambling to formulate a strategy to combat the problem, as security analysts hoped the killing, in a city of 366,000 people in the Santa Catarina state, might prove to be the watershed moment that yields productive and overdue actions nationwide.

Justice Minister Flávio Dino met with representatives from student associations, then told reporters in Brasilia that he was directing €‎27.5 million from the nation’s public security fund to shore up school safety. He said that money will pay for both heightened policing and an expansion of a Brasilia-based team for the monitoring of deep-web communities, places on the internet where hate speech and violence can be glorified.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Camilo Santana announced the creation of a group to address school violence. Santana will lead the group, which is scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday.

“There are no words to console the families. Anyone who has lost a relative knows that there are no words,” a teary-eyed President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Wednesday at the start of a ministerial meeting. He requested his ministers observe a minute of silence.

From 2000 to 2022, there were 16 attacks or violent episodes in schools in Brazil, four of which in the second half of last year, according to a report from researchers led by Daniel Cara, an education professor at the University of Sao Paulo. The 12 researchers, including psychologists, social scientists, public school educators, journalists and activists, delivered their report to Lula’s incoming government in December.

A student in Sao Paulo last week fatally stabbed a teacher and wounded several others. Brazil has seen at least one past attack on a daycare centre, too. That attack also occurred in Santa Catarina state, in May 2021, when an assailant used a dagger to kill three children under two years old and two adults.

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