More on Today’s Teachers in Cuba

By Francisco Castro

 Cuban school children, photo: Dana Lubow
Cuban school children, photo: Dana Lubow

I think it’s necessary to remind people of the introduction of my column in “Havana Times”. There I speak of the kind of a search that I am engaged in based on an awakening to reality. This search, less metaphorically speaking, is that of a truly socialist and democratic Cuba. That is my greatest desire.

I bring this up because a misinterpretation of my words could cause a series of unfortunate errors – already suffered in this country by more than one intellectual – whose consequences have yet to be analyzed.

My diary post “Today’s Teachers” was not based, unfortunately, on just one, five or even ten examples. For several years, even before my cousin began attending the school mentioned, I have listened to friends, classmates and co-workers, as well as people in the streets and on buses, all complaining about the shortage of true teachers in schools, not just in primary education.

This accumulation of information that appeared in my writing was triggered by the case of my cousin, which I finally decided to write about. I raised this with the concern that this situation might continue to expand, forming a thick trunk that would be more difficult to cut.

I’m young and I communicate with the youth. A lot of the young people who studied with me in primary and secondary school enrolled in the special courses to become teachers and I can assure Karen Lee Wald that those are not the “idealistic youths” she describes coming forward in difficult situations.

Believe me, I feel as or more overwhelmed by this situation; remember this is my country that is sinking in the ocean of world economic crisis and a host of other types of crisis, and that I am here, a part of it. Through this publication I am doing everything possible so that the country changes, that it changes 180 degrees, and that it changes for the better.

Yes, dear Karen Lee Wald, it is indeed incredible the number of youth who decide to become teachers. But do you know why? – have you had the opportunity to speak with them personally? I don’t believe that even if you did you would receive a response that comes closer to the truth.

The great majority of them opt for teaching because they don’t have any other option left. They could not enter the program that they wanted, or their grade point average didn’t meet the admission requirements. So, before finding themselves in the street, they choose to become a teacher, social worker, or whatever.

Cuban school children, photo: Dana Lubow
Cuban school children, photo: Dana Lubow

When reading about the visit that Karen Lee Wald made to my hometown, I remembered a personal anecdote (that if any Cuban of my generation read they will identify with, this I assure).

When a visit to the school by a provincial or national guest was announced, you could see a true revolution take place in the corridors.  The cleaning staff cleaned places where a broom had never touched, and the teachers decorated the doors and hallways with horrible paper chains.

Yet, most importantly, the classrooms were rearranged. I’m referring to the classroom assignments: the most intelligent students were grouped in two or three classrooms, so that any question posed by a visitor would receive the answer the teachers had planned, and what the visitor wanted to hear.

You should see the Cuban movie Las aventuras de Alicia en el pais de las maravillas (roughly, The adventures of Alice in wonderland)” by Daniel Diaz Torres).

Believe me: the individualistic solution is not my plan, and much less in my commentary. Please read; read between the lines.

Francisco Castro

Francisco Castro:Everything becomes simpler when one crosses the line of thirty. That does not make it easier, but rather the opposite. There I am on the other side of the line, trying to figure out, what little I know about art, politics, economy ... life, how to move without breaking oaths that seemed essential, how not to give up, how to make the years spent into a beacon to the future.



2 thoughts on “More on Today’s Teachers in Cuba

  • Usually when friends come to my house, I clean up, wash the dishes, make the bed, and generally try to put my best face forward. This is a normal thing which people do everywhere. Cuba has a bureaucracy which is not dissimilar to other countries in these respects. So when visitors who might be inspecting and looking for things to praise or to blame, the people being visited try to put their best feet forward. Karen Lee Wald’s book on Cuban education was written many decades ago, but she does retain ties to the island. Her views are certainly worth taking carefully into consideration, whether one agrees with them or now.

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  • Whether Cuba or the U.S.A. or…wherever, many folks go into the teaching profession by default. Still, we must thank the gods for those teachers who are inspired and who act as a catalyst to their students. For the most part, though, it must be the parents who, by their examples, show to their children their love of learning and the importance of an education. Also, in the end, the student must, to a certain degree, be self-motivated. Unfortunately, there is much to block this self-motivation. Sometimes fruitless years must pass before a student becomes motivated. Still, education really is a life-long process. Sorry for rambling here with this stream-of-consciousness; I just finished a long and brutal shift,and am exhausted, and far, far, from home, though surrounded by the utter beauties of Nature.

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