Education is a Bridge

HAVANA TIMES – The afternoon began to wane, and Nalva persisted at the foot of the ceiba tree. The long-awaited transport to take her home from school was a hope diluted in the steam of the asphalt. She occasionally glanced towards the horizon, trying to make out the silhouette of a car. Her stomach wouldn’t stop growling; the bread roll she had eaten at lunch was a distant memory.

Her reality mirrors that of many on the island; the certainty of returning home is not determined by schedules or established routes, but by the eventuality of what happens.

At times, she checked the time on her mobile phone, a device that had passed through several hands before reaching hers and “can’t take another lie.”

“Mom, I’ve been here almost three hours and nothing’s happening,” I heard her words cut off by the defective signal of the mobile.

“And what do you want me to do? Hold on a bit longer; something’s sure to happen soon.”

“Tell Titi to come get me on the motorcycle. Please, I’m going to faint!”

“Mimi, your uncle doesn’t have gasoline, I can’t do anything. Wait a bit longer…”

“Okay, I’m hanging up,” she hung up, and I was left with a tight chest from helplessness.

She wore a dirty uniform, marked by hours of study, physical activity, and the weather. She adjusted the strap of her backpack and made a decision to walk as far as necessary. Nalva trusted that along the way she might find some improvised means of transport, a horse-drawn cart, or a neighbor passing by with their car.

She started walking with Lázaro, her best friend. Each step was a mix of courage and resignation. The road home was long, and at times, the solitude seemed to keep them company. They passed other students, workers returning home, street vendors still seeking customers as eveing fell, but no transport to reach their destination.

They, like other students, face the daily problems of most Cuban households, but the lack of motivation and the exhaustion of teachers directly impact the quality of education. Lessons are less interactive, and the scope of the curriculum is reduced to adapt to circumstances.

Unmotivated teachers are not available to address the questions or needs of their students. The lack of personalized feedback and additional support can leave them struggling to understand concepts on their own.

An educator’s enthusiasm and passion for their subject are contagious; the lack of these can negatively affect the classroom atmosphere and convey feelings of frustration or apathy. This impacts the emotional well-being of students, decreasing their self-esteem and interest in learning.

In extreme situations, the decline in educational quality and the learning environment can lead some students to consider dropping out of school, if they feel their education is not providing them with the expected tools or knowledge.

What can parents do about this?

I have seen all these changes in my daughter. Nalva strived to learn, wanted to study at a good pre-university, participated in contests, and said it was the only way to achieve her goals. She loved writing, often bringing poems and mini-stories she wrote in her backpack.

I know she was influenced by her Literature teacher, who motivated her to write better every day. But “Professor Tania” left for more satisfying economic opportunities, and with her departure, I lost Nalva the writer. At least I still have the painter, and she will never give up.

Today, her outlook is different. She has been motivated to take greater responsibility for her own learning, exploring self-teaching.

“I don’t need an art academy; I just need to draw day and night. The other titles don’t matter to me,” she has told me several times while leaning over a drawing by the light of a rechargeable lamp.

Nalva and Lazaro’s walk turned into a silent reflection on reality, on the dreams they harbor for the future. Education is the bridge to their goals. Would they be willing to overcome any difficulty to achieve it?

That day, when the silhouette of her home began to take shape in the distance, it brought with it the relief of return. When she opened the door, I saw how the accumulated fatigue dissipated, renewing her energy and conviction. Nalva is a teenager who, despite appearing weak, possesses an innate strength; she will not give up. Tomorrow will bring new challenges, and she will be ready to face them.

Read more from the diary of Fabiana del Valle here.

Fabiana del Valle

I was a girl who dreamed of colors and letters capable of achieving the most widely read novels or those poems that conquer rebellious hearts. Today around forty, with my firm feet on this island, I let the brush and the words echo my voice. The one that I carry tight, prisoner of circumstances and my fears.