Those who worry about technology eroding human rights have long predicted that it’s only a matter of time until a person’s every movement is tracked by the authorities. Now that time has come – with 20,000 Brazilian schoolchildren being “chipped.”
Children up to the age of 14 have had electronic chips implanted into their uniforms in the north-eastern city of Vitoria da Conquista. Authorities say the tracking devices will provide an easy way to combat truancy.
The students’ whereabouts are fed into a central computer when school starts. Staff are informed immediately if the child is absent, and if any student is still absent 20 minutes after lessons begin, parents receive a text message to their phones.
City education secretary Coriolano Moraes says the innovation, which cost the government $670 thousand to design, is aimed at helping parents.
"We noticed that many parents would bring their children to school but would not see if they actually entered the building because they always left in a hurry to get to work," he told the Associated Press news agency.
But if a student misses school three times, the parents will be brought in to explain. If they fail to provide a sufficient explanation, they may be reported to the authorities, according to Moraes.
The chips are customarily placed on the inside of a sleeve, underneath an inscription that reads: "Education does not transform the world. Education changes people and people transform the world."
Local authorities say the devices cannot be tampered with or damaged during laundry or ironing.
They are set to become compulsory in all schools in Vitoria da Conquista – and far beyond – next year, according to Moraes, "I believe we may be setting a trend because we have received many requests from all over Brazil for information on how our system works," he said.