School Uniforms Are an Important Issue in Cuba

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Photo: juventudrebelde.cu

HAVANA TIMES – While the media and ministers of governments in other countries dedicate their time and space to issues such as the environment, duty on market products, taxes, or whether leaders are doing what they said they would on their political agenda, in Cuba, the trivial takes the spotlight.

For over a month now, school uniforms have been hording all of the media’s and government officials’ attention, giving explanations about sizes, lists and vouchers to buy them, their manufacture and distribution or, more simply, the delay in raw materials arriving to make them.

Of course, all of this works very poorly and with a thousand problems like everything else in Cuba. You can imagine it’s a very important matter for families to be able to buy school uniforms: firstly, because children are obliged to wear a school uniform to class; and secondly, because the shortage and high price of clothes would be a torment if they didn’t have a uniform.

However, the country’s exhaustion in just trying to ensure a simple uniform, and the thousand problems this entails, really is striking and interesting. (Because they only sell one uniform per child per year). It would be a lot easier for a country comparable to ours, the Dominican Republic for example, to send someone to the Moon, than it is for the Cuban government to ensure that every Cuban school student is able to buy a uniform in their size, any day over the two-month summer holidays, without a line and without complaints because they don’t feature on the list or have modified vouchers.

The public’s complaints are pouring in. It is a lot easier to see these nowadays because of our greater IT opportunities. Using the internet, email, social media, SMS messages or just a simple call on a cellphone, thanks to the top-up cards that hundreds of thousands of Cubans receive from abroad, paid by relatives who have already emigrated. Some party-line journalists have been “authorized” to talk about the subject on some hit shows, as long as they constantly underline the State’s kindness by wanting to ensure a uniform for every Cuban child.

A really insightful event took place when young TV host Lazaro Manuel Alonso, on the Buenos Dias show on Cubavision, got annoyed because TV viewers said in their messages that “there weren’t any uniforms at the store and they couldn’t find the size they needed”, and he, along with the guest officials, clarified that “there were uniforms and that it was wrong to say otherwise. The right thing to say is that at that moment they weren’t there.”  Need I say  anything else.

So, we must ask ourselves: how do they hope to achieve a prosperous and sustainable socialism in this country if they aren’t even able to ensure every Cuban child has a simple, hand-made uniform?

If their incompetence stopped here at uniforms, we’d be fine, but it’s the same story with everything: bread, transport, food items and basic products, etc. etc. etc. A thousand items would be needed to detail this disaster.

However, uniforms are trending right now. While party-line journalists try to pose as the real spokespeople of Cuban social reality, they continue to show their true colors, a part of the system’s manipulative apparatus, emphasizing the “government’s efforts” above its incompetence.

I will also tell you that my stepson who is about to start 6th grade hasn’t been able to get a new school uniform yet, and as I write we’re just a few hours away from the school year starting on Monday. We still haven’t received the voucher because of bureaucratic problems which isn’t even worth writing about. However, I won’t waste time in sending complaints to official media, not even in my town of Mayari.

Ever since I’ve discovered what the real source is of most of Cuba’s problems, I’m not wearing myself out fighting sterile battles, such as one-off problems. The problem is that we have a system that doesn’t do us any good and doesn’t work. And I fight to be able to solve the root of this problem.


Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

7 thoughts on “School Uniforms Are an Important Issue in Cuba

  • How did all that repetition occur?

  • No Matthew. Osmel Ramirez comments about school uniforms – they are made in Holquin, Cuba.
    Osmel refers specifically to: “bread, transport, food items and basic products” none of which are affected by the US embargo.
    As one who frequently has to wait up to forty minutes at the panderia with up to fifty people in order to buy a couple of 200 gm loaves – only to find out that that batch of loaves is sold out before I reach the serving hatch, I understand the question about even bread.
    The US embargo does not affect the purchase of vehicles – cars and buses – by Cuba from China, France, South Korea and Mexico.
    Food importation is not affected by the US embargo – witness the various foods from Spain (canned tomatoes), Holland (jams and pickles), Argentina (frozen ostrich legs) or the US itself (canned fruit, canned vegetables, frozen chicken etc.)
    One assumes that by “basic products” Osmel is referring to soap, detergents, toilet paper, toothpaste etc., none of which are affected by the US embargo.
    The reason for Osmel’s justified complaints and comments, are a reflection of the incompetence and mis-management of the Castro regime, busily pursuing its Stalinist policies with little concern for the proletariat that it has worked hard to create over the last sixty years and eradicating the bourgeois and “kulak” (farmers with more than 10 acres) classes. Just read and think about the purge of professors at the universities in Cuba for failing to comply with Fidel Castro’s beliefs – the eradication of individuality – which is essential in a healthy progressive society.
    Those who are innocent of the reality of Cuba’s communist system are easily led to believe that somehow it is the US that is responsible for the communist economic mess in Cuba. You also mention Venezuela – where initially Hugo Chavez followed by Nicholas Maduro have practiced the economic policies they learned at the knee of Fidel Castro – as Chavez said: “He is like a father to me.”
    There has been much talk Matthew outside Cuba in recent years about some form of undefined “change” taking place in Cuba. For the average Cuban, nothing has changed, the secret for Cubans seeking a quiet life is quite simple:
    “Don’t challenge the system, accept it, stay mute and exist.”

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