By Erasmo Calzadilla
As of a few months ago, we’ve been seeing positive changes in everything related to education in Cuba. From the time of the Special Period [the crisis years beginning in the early 1990s], the Ministry of Education seemed to have been run by a bureaucrat who was not only incompetent but also blind and deaf. While even the thickest headed Cubans could note that the educational system was going downhill fast, the official news bulletins spoke only of successes.
I don’t want to declare victory, but it seems that at last some common sense is penetrating those in decision-making positions. Where did the initiative for change come from? What or who stood in the way of adopting adequate measures during all this time? Neither of these answers is very well known, but it does seem that a new direction is being taken.
The Pre-University (senior high) boarding schools in the countryside had little by little become schools for delinquency, and focal points of violence and sexual harassment among many other minuses. Anyone paying the slightest attention to the subject could hear constant tales of horrors and mysterious events occurring in those centers.
Today, finally, and with no previous notice, the parents of students in the ninth grade have received the news that there will not be any more of these Pre-university schools in the countryside, at least for tenth grade. The justification is the lack of transportation and food for the students.
In addition, the good news has recently arrived of an upcoming salary increase for workers in the education sector.
In past years they have implemented who knows how many wild ideas that must have consumed a lot of resources. They tried everything short of consenting to teachers’ salaries. The ideas ranged from putting television sets in each classroom so that the children could receive televised classes, to creating an immense body of apprentice teachers, highly ill prepared of course, to mitigate the effects of the exodus of experienced teachers towards better paid fields.
Today, it would seem that at last, they are aware of their error. And even though the quantity that they’re going to augment is tiny, at any rate it’s a relief and an encouragement. This, especially since it seems that in the wake of so many missed shots and failed experiments, finally we have a shooter with better aim in the Ministry of Education or who knows where.
I can only hope anxiously that this sudden and strange budding of common sense among the decision-makers at the top also leads them to understand sooner rather than later that indoctrination and the lack of freedom of thought in the very abundant political subjects doesn’t bring anything good to the revolution that they claim to defend so fervently.