Kabir Vega Castellanos
HAVANA TIMES —One of my high school buddies came to see me a week ago. He brought me up to date on what’s been going on in my former classroom.
Of the things he told me – mostly unimportant details about school life, like the fact some people we knew are no longer in the classroom – two things surprised me some:
According to my friend, one of the students arrives about two hours late every day, asks the teacher permission to go into the classroom, leaves his backpack (so small it can’t even carry any books inside) and leaves – just like that.
The teachers didn’t seem too put off by this and, with time, got used to his routine. That simple. No one reprimands him for this and the fact he doesn’t attend class doesn’t deprive him of the right to take the exams like everyone else.
This seems odd to me, because, when I was in the tenth grade, the principal’s office was very strict about attendance.
The worst piece of news, however, isn’t this. It has to do with a chemistry teacher.
Picking up on different things, the students had begun to suspect this teacher was pretending to be hard of hearing, so they planned a little experiment to find out whether his deafness was real or feigned.
A student stood up in front of him and began chatting him up while another stepped surreptitiously behind him and began saying the word “deaf” into his ear repeatedly.
Seeing that the teacher wasn’t reacting, the student took courage and started to scream out the word at the top of his lungs, non-stop. One of the school supervisors, who was five classrooms down, suddenly came in and put an end to the ruckus.
Following this terrible incident, nearly all of the students began to shamelessly take advantage of the teacher. When they have to present a class project, those who’ve forgotten their parts just move their mouths, pretending to be talking about what they’ve learned. And this isn’t as bad as it gets: the cruelest of the bunch even make fun of the teacher and throw insults at him during these presentations.
Because education is based on appearances, the school’s administration doesn’t care much about tardiness, absences or the humiliation of a teacher – not even about violence among students.
I recall that, when I was in tenth grade, two students got into a fight and one of them pulled out a knife. Neither of the two were expelled or even punished for this.
However, if a male student has hair that is one centimeter longer than what’s established, he can be denied the right to an education – regardless of whether he has no unjustified absences, the fact he is respectful and makes a sincere effort to learn.
Seeing so much hypocrisy, there is no doubt in my mind now that Cuban schools (at least the ones I’ve known) have very little to teach us, save how to become worse human beings.