Good Grades and Unwanted Degrees

By Irina Pino

Students at the Lenin pre-university outside Havana, get to study the most desired university programs.

HAVANA TIMES – Everyone in Cuba knows that there aren’t enough degree programs for pre-university students. Young people are hopeful, but often their dreams never come true. Plans nipped in the bud and not only for those who are at the bottom of the ladder.

There is a project with two calls for university entrance exams for pre-university schools (senior high). Parents spend a great deal of money on private tutors so that their kids can pass it and enroll on a degree, because Military Service is clipping at their heels. Although nobody can truly escape it because it is compulsory for boys, and you need to do a year at least. Students who don’t get into university have to do two years and they have no way out of it.

Dairon, a boy from our neighborhood, has had excellent grades since 10th grade, he used to dream about studying engineering or architecture. However, when the first call for entrance exams came around, he failed. He passed the second time around, but his chances were taken from him in one blow: he couldn’t choose any of his top choices and he was given Medicine, his last choice.

He began the degree, hoping that he would end up liking it and he passed the first year. In the second year, however, he failed two exams and passed a last chance test. He became more and more demotivated, so much so that his grades dropped. He missed classes, he became stressed, he smoked and drank at parties, on the brink of becoming an alcoholic.

Dairon didn’t want to continue and he left school. Now, he’s looking for a job at any private business and prays that they don’t come calling for him to serve his compulsory Military Service. Somebody told him that people who leave their degree in the second year will still be called.

Something similar happened to Luis, another boy, who passed the entrance exam the second-time around and was given Medicine, his last choice. He wanted to change degrees but he couldn’t. He left it too in the end because he failed a few exams. A month didn’t even pass by before he was called to serve his Military Service.

The best careers go to the Vladimir Ilich Lenin School of Exact Sciences, the rest to the Ministry of Interior’s (Minint) pre-university, and lastly, to the ordinary pre-universities.

The students at the Minint’s pre-university can choose a civil degree (with entrance exams), or opt for a military degree, which they are guaranteed without having to sit an entrance exam.

We should think about why there are so many openings to study Medicine for those students that don’t even have a vocation, putting them in a situation that will ultimately become a waste of time.

Education and personal development need to begin at an early age, it’s a need and shouldn’t be like going to the slaughterhouse.

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Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

Irina Pino has 266 posts and counting. See all posts by Irina Pino

3 thoughts on “Good Grades and Unwanted Degrees

  • We must understand that any comparison of economics or lifestyle in cuba or any nation to the US is useless.
    In the US you have to produce . An employer( country,city,family persons). must Make a profit from his labor. This system has evolved since the dawn of civilization.
    Its a tug of war that continues to haunt us.
    The choice Or chance of an adult to improve his condition as to be a right.
    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    It is long slow process that may never be met by everyone but has to be a goal.

  • I think Mike that the current figure is that Cuba has one doctor for every 159 citizens. Do not confuse the working conditions for doctors in Cuba with those in capitalist countries (including those unlike the US with national health services). Visit a couple of Cuban clinics and hospitals to observe the reality and you will comprehend the difference between those who pursue medicine as a career in the US (where an astonishing 17.2% of the GDP goes to health as compared with neighbour Canada where the figure is 10.3% and everybody is able to access medical services) and Cuba. In Cuba a high percentage of medical graduates endeavor to become part of the State system that sells medical services to other countries (currently being discussed in Havana Times with regard to Brazil) because they get to retain some 25% of that which they actually earn, rather than the pittance they receive at home in Cuba – that is if you regard $2 per day as a pittance.
    In Cuba, a man with a bicycle and pannier bearing a large cardboard box, can go to the panderia (State bread bakery), buy 25 200gm loaves at 5 pesos each, cycle around town selling them for 6 pesos each and if he does that twice a day, that converts to a “profit” of 50 pesos which equals $2. Who would want to be a doctor with medical responsibilities?

  • Why is medicine not a popular choice?
    Sorry, I just don’t know. In the USA, medical school is very popular. Is it because of the same issues with the Dr’s sent to Brazil? Underpaid and poor conditions?
    Thank you

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