In Cuba, Education Is Free, but It Costs

Mercedes Gonzales Amade

Illustration by Carlos
Illustration by Carlos

HAVANA TIMES — The summer came to an end and everybody began to get ready for the new school year. Uniforms were being sold well in advance, which is a very good thing because you can avoid the last minute rush.

The bad thing though is that for every school level, children in first grade are only given two uniforms, second grade only receive one and third grade don’t get any. How can kids get by for five or six days of the week, going in the morning and afternoon, with only two uniforms, in a country as hot as ours? You have to turn to the black market, where prices can go up to 150 pesos (7.5 USD).

My son has just started his pre-university course, quite a difficult level and an age when young people show off a lot. I haven’t been able to get him extra uniforms on the black market because he needs a bigger size than the ones they have, we’ll see what happens… Not to mention backpacks and their sky-rocket prices, not always of great quality either. In order to be sure that it’ll last your kids the entire academic year, you need to bite the dust and buy a branded one: Adidas, Nike… which cost well over 20 dollars each.

On the other hand, I’ve already hired tutors for his harder subjects; because I don’t want to go through what I did last year. If you add this to the rest of the little things you need: book covers, notebooks, school supplies… it’s pretty much an impossible task for the pockets of modest parents.

In Cuba, school education is free, and it’s a very good thing that everybody has access to it, but it’s slowly becoming a hefty financial dilemma. It’s no secret that the children of families with financial means have, like they had before, more opportunities to get a good level of education and continue on to studying in university.

My duty and what I most want as a mother, is to give this “luxury” to my son, if he wants it of course.

Mercedes González

Mercedes González Amade: I'm 38 years old and physically challenged. I struggle daily in this life be it on crutches or in a wheelchair. I have a 12-year-old son who is my main inspiration and for who I have fought tooth and nail. I hold a position in the governmental institution that serves the handicapped in my part of the capital. In the afternoons I practice tennis well away from where I live. My intention with Havana Times is to help spread the desire to live and to do so with dignity, especially to persons with physical and motor difficulties.

9 thoughts on “In Cuba, Education Is Free, but It Costs

  • December 23, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    You are lucky. As others said: very costly, not only for the education but all supplies (books too). I’m a Cuban living abroad. I had to pay every cent for my education here and start from 0 as my high school diploma was nothing here… I went to university in Cuba too and had 5 Cuban pesos allowance for the week. With that I got myself to language school every night and did 2 years English, two years French. never owned a backpack in my life and struggled to have shoes on my feet. I can think of a better time in my life.

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