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Slum poor get attendance grants;International

BRAZIL

At least 1,000 of the poorest families in some of Rio's sprawling urban slums are to be given cash if they send their children to school, instead of out to work.

They will receive the equivalent of a minimum salary per child if they can show that boys and girls are attending regular lessons instead of hanging around in the streets soliciting, begging,shoe-shining or working in one of the city's many illegal sweatshops.

The school grant programme, launched by Rio de Janeiro's newly-elected governor, Anthony Garotinho, aims to diminish the city's high school drop-out rates, which reach 35 per cent in some areas, while also targeting the problem of child labour.

"We will start with 1,000 families and increase the number in accordance with the success of the plan," said Hesio Cordeiro, Rio's state secretary for education.

The programme will initially benefit children aged between seven and 14 from six of Rio's most poverty-stricken and crime-ridden shanty towns, known as favelas, on the city's northern outskirts. It then aims to target the huge sprawls of urban squalor which have grown smack in the middle of the city.

The poorest families in the favelas are being registered and then assessed for their eligibility for a grant. They will receive $70 (pound;44) per month per child as long as the child attends 90 per cent of lessons. For some of the families with as many as five children, this will mean a sizeable income supplement that should deter the need for children to be sent out to menial jobs, according to Hesio Cordeiro.

Education authorities in the capital, Brasilia, which pioneered this programme, say 98 per cent of families taking part stick with their commitment to send their children to school.

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