HAVANA TIMES — Entrance exams for university took place about 15 days ago here in Cuba. Thousands of young people from every province are waiting to find out what course they will get, their future depends on it, the future of this country too.
It’s not that there aren’t very many options, but the number of places in Higher Education are becoming less and less; a suppressed reality that had to come to light someday, it makes no sense that a country as poor as ours has so many university graduates completing their studies every year, for their talents to then be wasted in state companies or organizations, that is to say, where we have two or three graduates when really we only need one.
Among the many degrees that 12th grade students have access to right now – in all fields, that is to say, exact sciences, humanities, economics, agriculture, education, engineering… – one has become the most sought-after, and even though it’s the degree that has the most placements, it still isn’t enough.
I’m referring to Medicine, which has more and more fans in a country with a depressing economy, extremely low salaries, where professionals are the ones who suffer the most, as they have very few opportunities to survive or get by, as we say on the street.
Among the younger generations’ motivations for studying some speciality in Health, is firstly the fact that doctors’ current salaries, who just come out of university, are 1,400 Cuban pesos (70 USD), which is nothing compared to what doctors earn in other countries, but it’s triple the average Cuban salary and it can even be 4 times more than what most Cubans generally earn.
Another point that catches their attention, especially the attention of their parents – who are always on the lookout for their children’s welfare – are international missions abroad, which not only give them the opportunity to get to know other places in the world – which would be nearly impossible for the majority- but it also gives them the opportunity to emigrate in this way (not to the United States anymore, at least not by legal means) to any country that offers them a more secure future or, at least, with less financial problems, although the majority of “defectors” (as the Government calls them) can hardly work in their specialty.
With these missions, Public Health personnel have the opportunity to bring back some products that are excessively expensive in Cuba, such as clothes from Venezuela and electrical appliances in the case of African countries and Haiti. At the end of the mission, they also have access to a bank account with several thousand CUC, which they can then use to resolve their most pressing needs and even buy a house.
It’s therefore not surprising that with all of the incentives, young people today don’t envision a better option than to study Medicine, as a way to have a normal life here, even those who have no vocation whatsoever to save lives, much less to care for people.