During their normal working days, the routines of construction workers toiling away on the stadiums for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ tends to revolve around cranes, cement and the sound of heavy machinery. Yet once their shifts are over, many workers are now putting down their hard hats and picking up pencils and paper.

“I want to be able to read out loud and not be embarrassed about it,” said 48-year-old bricklayer Geraldo Nicolau, who aims to one day be able to read an entire book by himself. And Nicolau is just one of 35 individuals who work on the Estadio Castelao in the city of Fortaleza by day, before attending classes in the evening.  

As an added incentive, those workers with a 100 per cent attendance record at the end of each month are given a basket of staple household goods and two hours overtime pay for every day of class. Classes run from 17.30 to 19.30, Monday to Thursday, and feature subjects drawn from the Year 1 to Year 5 curriculums of the Education for Adults and Young People's Elementary School syllabus.

“The pupils realise that studying is a productive activity and something they can gain satisfaction from,” said teacher Danielly Vidal, who also explained how the first stage of her work involves assessing each pupil’s educational level and requirements.

I’ve learned to read and write, it’s going to open up a whole world of knowledge for me to discover.

Marcio Silva, construction worker

Said sense of satisfaction and achievement can come in many ways, such as the enjoyment of reading a good book, finally passing the written section of the driving test or, in the case of Marcio Silva, setting an example for your seven-month-old daughter. “Once I’ve learned to read and write, it’s going to open up a whole world of knowledge for me to discover. My daughter is going to have all the opportunities to study that I didn’t have,” said the 28-year-old.

Echoing the sentiment was Ferruccio Feitosa, the state of Ceara’s Special Secretary for the FIFA World Cup: “It’s a real ‘wonder goal’ [of an initiative], which gives these people the opportunity to grow and develop intellectually and professionally.”

It is a similar story in another of the Host Cities for Brazil 2014: Belo Horizonte. For workers at the city’s Estadio Mineirao, there are three literacy classes in progress with a total of 60 pupils. The curriculum also includes physical education, extracurricular activities and IT lessons. “The Internet gives me another way to communicate with the world,” said rigger Evaldo Augusto de Souza. “But it’s all still very new to me.” 

The pupils are given a complete set of educational material, which includes textbooks, books, a pencil, exercise books and a student card valid nationwide. “The majority of our workers didn’t have the opportunity to go to school when they were younger,” said Maria Cristina Aires, social coordinator for the consortium in charge of construction at the Mineirao. “Now they’ve got the chance to get a formal education, which will help them in their professional lives.”