The Children’s Samba Schools of Rio De Janeiro

The children’s samba schools (Escolas mirim) of Rio de Janeiro were started in the early 80′s. Their parade opens the Rio de Janeiro carnival on the Friday night of carnival, when entry to the sambodromo is free.

At the moment there are 12 Escolas de samba Mirins in the Association of children’s samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. Each school parades with between 1000 and 2000 children, with floats and costumes made by the children, a bateria (samba drum orchestra) of children, with hundreds of adults helping them along.

Behind the show of the parade, the children’s escolas mirins have a serious purpose. They are educational and social projects designed to complement a formal school education, particularly for young people of 14 – 21 years of age, and to train them up to professional standards in the crafts practiced in a samba school.

This task is urgent, as the children’s samba schools are situated in areas of high social risk and exclusion. The work of an Escola Mirim results in a samba school parade, whilst giving training in design, costume making, metalwork, carpentry, lighting, sound, music, dance, people management and administration, and many ancillary skills. The aim is to provide a pathway out of the marginalisation and violence found mainly in the favelas and slums of this most beautiful city.

The president of one of the newer children’s samba schools said in 2000 that the objective of his project was partly to train future samba players. But much more important was to take the children off the streets. “We have a rule – you can only parade in this bateria if you come to the rehearsals.”

The new Associacao das Escolas Mirins do Rio de Janeiro took over from the old League of children’s samba schools in 2002. They are currently funded by the Prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro as part of the city wide project O Projeto Célula Cultural, (although it is easy to spot which schools are also backed by a rich adult school, when you watch their parade).