HAVANA TIMES — Recently there was a news item that struck a nostalgic chord in many people. Cuba ended one of its programs of South-South international assistance that had operated for decades: pre-university training for Third World students.
The last to graduate were a group of students from the Western Sahara.
The program operated on the “Isle de la Juvendud” (the Isle of Youth), the second largest island in the Cuban archipelago.
Those who passed through this program — in the addition to the masses of foreign students — were large numbers of Cuban teachers serving this act of solidarity that was considered so worthwhile since it was comparable to the famed international missions outside of Cuba.
This last group, which was featured on the television news, was rather small. Most of the boys and girls wore clothing that is typical of Saharan Arabs, though some preferred Western attire (ties along with the traditional school uniform).
Cuba recognizes the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a state whose semi-nomadic desert territory is largely occupied by Morocco.
Sahrawian independence could not achieve full international recognition when the former colonial power — Spain — withdrew from the Western Sahara after the death of Franco.
Something similar happened in fact to Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico when Spain withdrew in 1898, leaving their overseas possessions at the mercy of US imperialism.
It is therefore an act of historical nobility to provide assistance to the Sahrawians, the last people suffering colonial oppression in Africa.
In any case, the program was ended. Cuba is undergoing a period economic rationality, so “ideological solidarity,” in its various forms, will go on to take shape in other ways.
We are still expecting, therefore, that at least Cuban education will experience radical improvement… something that has been needed for a long time given its very deep state of deterioration, especially in recent years.
So, if we are able to rescue it, Cuba will not have to sustain itself on internationalism of other countries in order to graduate its own students from high school.