She was born in 1936 in Maracangalha, a small agricultural city in the Northeastern State of Bahia, Brazil. Her father was a railroad employee and her mother worked for the local post office. She came from a family of 8 brothers and sisters.
She was educated at local public schools, and later moved to Salvador, the state capital, where she studied at the Federal University of Bahia (“UFBA”), having earned a B.A. in Geography and History at the UFBA. She continued her studies at various Brazilian institutions and then she received a fellowship to Stanford University, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Education. After her studies in the USA, she received another fellowship as a Distinguished Latin American Professional form the German Government to pursue a Ph.D. in Europe. Yet, due to family reasons, she had to return earlier to Brazil without concluding her doctorate studies in Germany.
She taught in low-income school districts throughout the state of Bahia. She earned the position of Assistant Professor at UFBA’s School of Education. There she headed UFBA’s Education Department, focusing on the theory and practice of education. At the same time she created and managed a new center at the Catholic University School of Education (the “Centro Integrado Anision Teixeira”), as well as a foundation to support education research and related social services (the “Fundacao de Apoio a Pesquisa e Extensao”).
She rose to head the Education Department of Bahia, the first black woman appointed to the position at the top level of the state’s government.
She worked as an Education Consultant for UNESCO, IICA, OEA, CEPLAC. She was a member of various committees selecting fellows for the MacArthur Foundation, Odebrecht Foundation and Regional Principals of the State. At the same time she created and managed a new Center at the Catholic Universiy School of Education ( the Centro Integrado Anisio Teixeira).
Her work with women’s movements led her to preside over the Salvador Woman Council, which focused on general education, survival strategies and income generation. In this role, Prof. Rocha decisively improved low-income population with social projects such as Citizenship for a Culture of Peace, Black and Visible, Women in Traditional Jobs, and Maria Maria.
Prof. Rocha currently is a Consultant to the Anisio Teixeira Foundation and the National Afro-Brazilian Cultural Museum, where she coordinates the work of volunteers supporting the Live Museum. She also directs the Eres Project, which supports socially vulnerable children and teenagers, raising their self-esteem and celebrating the various aspects of the Afro-Brazilian culture through books, cinema, theater, games, etc.
Prof. Rocha has received many awards, including from the popular TV channel “Manchete” for her distinguished work in the field of education. She was one of the 100 alumni selected by Stanford University to celebrate its centennial. As a Visiting Scholar with the support of the Lemann Foundation, Prof. Rocha studied the impact of emerging technologies on teacher’s performance, advancing a field of research that she first promulgated at UFBA.