Cuba School Year Begins Sept. 1, Teacher Shortage Persists

Junior High students. Photo: Juan Suarez
Junior High students. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — On Monday Sept. 1, the new school year begins in Cuba at all levels, from pre-school to technical and university classes, announced Education Minister Ena Elsa Velásquez Cobiella.

The figure of 1.8 million students registered represents more than 10 percent of the Cuban population, although the figure has dropped because of aging and the low birth rate.

The official noted that the teacher shortage in Cuba continues with only 93.1 percent of the classrooms covered. The deficit involves about 11,000 educators, reported Progreso Weekly.

Chronically low salaries continue to motivate many teachers to seek employment in other fields such as tourism.

One solution to the staffing problem has been to encourage the return of retired teachers to the educational system, who are allowed to receive their pensions along with their salaries.

Flexibility in classroom hours is a change taking place for the new school year. In some schools the school day will be split into two sessions with the children going home for lunch and then returning for the final classes.

2 thoughts on “Cuba School Year Begins Sept. 1, Teacher Shortage Persists

  • An academic response.
    I have met a reasonable number of teachers in Cuba and yes it is a vocation and yes they are dedicated to their chosen profession. It is their hard work which has given Cuba its very high level of literacy. My wife is an example as she has been teaching for twenty five years initially in the secondary system and then in the pre-university system where she holds a very responsible position.
    I know three teachers who have taken positions in the Venezeulan program and have done so purely to improve their incomes in trying to provide their families with a better standard of living. Being away from their families is very difficult for them but a sacrifice they are willing to make as they cannot improve their incomes in Cuba.
    That drive or need to improve the standard of living for their families is one of two reasons why teachers abandon their profession to work in the tourism sector. They usually have the advantage of being bi or tri-lingual but ‘connection’ is at least as important as there is true competition to gain positions in the tourism sector.
    I know of a male Cuban who has five languages (Spanish, English, French, German and Japanese) who to date has been unable to obtain a position in tourism, he has no ‘connections’.
    He is an example of the second reason why Cubans wish to gain access to the generosity of foreign tourists. They hope to accumulate sufficient funds in hard currency to move abroad – probably 90% to the USA.
    I think it is erroneous to say that Cubans see tourism employment as “a cushy little number”. Those teachers who enter the sector do so for one or other of the two reasons I have given. Usually they represent a real loss to the teaching profession – but they are also a loss when going to Venezuela – albeit to teach!
    Proper analysis provides the proper and correct answer!

  • Whilst teaching may not be the most attractive profession to spend one’s vocation, especially with regard to the salary, I don’t accept the comparison used is realistic. Working in tourism is hardly on the same or even similar academic level as teaching but for example a tour guide can ‘earn’ a considerable amount particularly from tour groups and without exerting their skills to any taxing degree.
    As an example, one tour guide, (let’s call him Junior for example) spends his time at University learning about The Beatles and then conveniently slots into a position as a tour guide. He sees his Country travelling on luxury coaches, stays in nice hotels, eating very well and sees his so called ‘profession’ as a cushy little number which is then financially enhanced by generous tips from overseas tourists.
    There may well be a shortage of teachers in Cuba, 6.9% but at least the educators can hold their collective heads up high knowing they have quality in their profession.
    Who in their right mind would want a lazy, lead swinging, apathetic individual like ‘Junior’ teaching their children?

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