Social Service (I)

Francisco Castro

Students at the University of Havana.  Photo: Caridad
Students at the University of Havana. Photo: Caridad

In Cuba, university education is “free,” as are all mandatory studies.  It’s free in the sense that it is unnecessary to pay with money for the years of coursework received.  However, once someone graduates, it’s necessary to repay with work for the knowledge acquired in the classroom.  This is known as fulfilling social service.

Three years must be dedicated to this repayment for a university education.  In the case of males, their two years of mandatory military service are included in this repayment.  This can also be done by females; though for them military service is voluntary.

These years of social service must be strictly fulfilled; otherwise, the university degree received at graduation has no value. That would be like tossing years of university study in the garbage.

Social Service must be served in a job position related to one’s field of study.  The student can either choose their position (if there is an opening where they want to work) or they can be placed by the university and ministry(s) under which their field of study belongs.

For example, the Higher Institute of Art is under the Ministry of Higher Education, like all of the country’s universities, as well as the Ministry of Culture.  Similarly, my faculty (Audiovisual Media) must direct its recently graduates to any of the audiovisual producers in the country, such as the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT), the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), Mundo Latina, and Educational Cinematography.

In some cases, recent graduates must undergo training that can last for months or even years, depending on the degree of complexity of the assigned task or the tutor’s evaluation of the new worker’s progress.

Other cases, though, don’t require a training period due to the characteristics of the work performed and the field studied.  In these cases, students have the possibility of carrying out pre-professional work-study while in school, which helps guarantee their ability to perform work effectively once they graduate.

Social service is a duty that all university graduates must fulfill, since this is how they repay society for providing them their professional instruction.

However, there are youth who are not interested in making this repayment.  They either want to emigrate to another country upon graduation or simply are opposed to working for the State and “working for Fidel” (or now Raul).

3 thoughts on “Social Service (I)

  • Is tuition free for international students as well?

  • i’m paying a student loan at prime interest rate plus i forget how many percentage points. “prime interest,” i think that’s determined by the government, is currently 2.25%. my monthly interest, on a loan of just under $10,000, amounts to about $40 a month. i earn live in poverty and earn $1000 a month publishing an alternative newspaper. i make monthly payments to the bank of nova scotia, which reports enormous profits each quarter. i’ll likely be making monthly payments until i die, never quite able to pay the darned thing off. and yet i also work in my community, as an activist for peace and justice and environmental health. to their credit, the canadian government has “forgiven” a portion of my student debt, because of my situation, but there are many like me paying huge amounts of interest to for-profit corporate banks who do not give back significantly to communities. minimum wage in my province is $8/hr. cuba has lots to teach us about shaping economies and…

  • Innoccence and lack of information about the education system in the US, have confused thousands of Cuban higher education students. Providing them with basic information such as a community college tuition can be around 10-15,000.00 per semester, which at an Ivy League University may run over $50,000, to which food, lodging, books, laboratory and other goodies must be added, forced parents to mortgage their homes, or if a student is fortunate enough to receive a government loan, they will walk away from the University with a Diploma and a 250,000.00 bill. Graduates can be found everywhere incapable of working in their field for lack of a diploma which they will receive only after paying off their debts. Depending on the chosen profession, graduates must be prepared to partner with some lay person with cash to fund their practice and work on a 60/40% or 70/30% basis for many years to come. This explains a lower graduate index here and there. Maybe some may re-think their dreams.

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