By Esther Zoza
HAVANA TIMES – The 2022/2023 academic year began in Cuba on September 5th. What was once a reason for celebration in many households is now, unfortunately, a nightmare.
We decided to do a collection at home, after my sister’s great efforts to buy school materials for my two nephews. My brother was responsible for finding shoes, I was responsible for the backpack, and their parents would take care of the rest. Of course, this was an illusion.
There’s no need to tell you that people without access to the government’s MLC (dollar) stores have to navigate exorbitant prices of the self-employed and the illicit market. After searching for an affordable backpack for days, I gave up. My brother also gave up his search for shoes, a few days later. My nephews had to settle for the same backpack as last year, and their cousins’ shoes.
Bitterness and resentment are becoming more and more common for Cubans without families on the other side of the Florida Strait. Many Cuban mothers must not only deal with looking for school essentials, shoes and socks, but also with the huge sizes of school uniforms sold by the State. This means that old uniforms are reused, patched up and used by others. As well as dealing with the embarrassment of their children, who are victims of bullying a lot of the time because of inequalilty at school.
The odyssey of Cuban mothers is never-ending. Plus, there are now blackouts. If there’s a blackout, how can they keep their children’s school uniform clean, bearing in mind the fact that water is pumped into most homes with a motor or turbine. On top of that, there is a shortage of flour which adds a new dilemma to Cuban households where residents have breakfast or a mid-morning snack.
Cuban mothers are absolutely brilliant! Don’t forget that. The crutch of their families, they are facing the new academic year with old challenges that seem to be here forever.