Brazil’s prestigious University of Campinas on Sunday organized its first entry exams reserved for members of indigenous tribes, with 610 people vying for 72 spots.
The applicants for the five-hour tests included native Brazilians from 13 states, 350 of them from Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira, a city of 44,000 on the northern tip of the Amazonas state.
Last week, university staff traveled 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) to administer the test in that municipality, where 76 percent of the inhabitants are from indigenous tribes.
“The number of registrants surprised us,” said Jose Alves de Freitas Neto, the exam’s coordinator, on the university’s website.
“They showed a great interest for courses in the fields of health and humanities, management and education,” he added.
The tests are taking place across five centers, including one in Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira, to ease access for students — but some have still had to travel several thousand kilometers.
This was the case for brothers Maykuty Tuhu Waura and Yatakulo Willianz Waura, along with the latter’s wife and two young children, who traveled for a week from Xingu in Para state in the north, according to a report on news site G1.
The tests consisted of 50 multiple-choice questions and one essay, covering topics linked to issues facing indigenous tribes.
A 2017 Justice Ministry report showed that the number of indigenous people enrolled in Brazilian universities increased by 52.5% from 2015 to 2016, from 32,147 to 49,026, thanks to quota systems.
According to official figures, some 800,000 Indians from 305 ethnic groups live in Brazil, a country of 209 million people.
Right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro on Saturday reaffirmed his wish to “integrate Indians into society,” saying that he no longer wants to maintain native reservations.
“My plan is to make Indians our equals,” he said. “They have the same needs as us, they want doctors, dentists, television, internet.”
But many tribespeople say they prefer to maintain their traditional way of life, away from towns and cities.