Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — As I have said before, illiteracy was eradicated in Cuba in 1961 and the full responsibility for education was assumed by the state, which offers it free of charge at all levels and in all areas of instruction.
By law, all children must attend school until the ninth grade. At that level, they are offered every possibility for further study. They can continue in high school and then opt for studies at the university level, or they can enroll in a poly-technical school, which have different branches in mid-level training that allow work in their specialty once they graduate (what’s more, as workers they can continue studying at the university level).
According to the vocation of each pupil, there are also specialized schools at the elementary, intermediate and advanced stages in all fields of art and culture, such as those for music, painting, sculpture, dance, ballet, the performing arts, etc. This instruction ensures that no talent in any of these art forms goes ignored or disregarded.
The same goes for schools of sports and physical culture, which are open to all children who excel in sports and have the necessary skills to pursue a career in these fields, at both the mid-level and higher levels.
For education, the Cuban government spares no effort, and — despite the difficulties caused by the global economic crisis, exacerbated by the US blockade — schools are equipped with all the necessary audio-visual media, including computers with Internet access, to provide quality education.
In the most remote areas, where there’s no electricity, schools are equipped with solar panel systems to ensure the functioning of electrical and electronic equipment. Therefore, there’s no difference between the classes taught in these schools and those in cities.
For students who live in outlying areas and can’t commute daily to classes, the Cuban educational system offers a scholarship plan that guarantees accommodation and food throughout the school year; and in the cases of school levels in which students are required to wear uniforms, these too are provided for free.
Vocational senior high schools and the military schools maintain the boarding school system for all of those students.
Cuban education is organized as a system that begins with children’s daycare and continues through preschool, elementary, lower secondary, pre-university, technical, vocational and higher education. The latter is complemented by postgraduate education, where students can receive a master’s degree and a doctorate in science.
Cuban higher education currently consists of 68 centers, including universities and colleges.
One of the subsystems to which a great deal of attention is devoted owing to its humanitarian character, is special education, which serves children with disabilities such as mental retardation, delayed mental development, hearing and/or visual impairments, autism, language disorders, physical and motor-skill limitations, behavioral disorders, etc.
In this branch of education, many students are cared for in their homes and even in hospitals by itinerant teachers.
Cuba has one of the highest teacher-student ratios in the world, with one teacher for every 42 inhabitants. More than 400,000 people are employed in this sector and about seven percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) is devoted to education.
The quality of Cuban education — which, I repeat, is completely free — has been endorsed by UNESCO. This is to say that many years ago Cuba achieved what students in many countries are demanding in the streets, facing repression of troops using tear gas, water jets, beatings and arrests. Some have even died due to such acts of repression.
The achievements of the Cuban revolution in education aren’t talked about by the information transnationals or the press paid from the north – or by dissent bloggers. That’s another truth they try to silence, though it’s in plain view.