By Antonio Recio
HAVANA TIMES — There are only a few days left to go until the new 2017-2018 academic year begins throughout Cuba and government media doesn’t stop repeating the fact that everything is ready, showing us renovated centers and even study materials, new books among them, for the most part.
In the minds of anyone who can see these images, everything is more than ready for the school year to begin officially all over the country on Monday September 4th.
According to Ena Elsa Velazquez, the Minister of Education (MINED), at a press conference, more than 98% of the teaching staff have been covered this year, and every school has new labs.
But, let’s just say that when the doctor refers to 98% of teaching staff being covered, she’s exaggerating a little bit, or, maybe I just have the pleasure of knowing where this 2% that’s left is. It so happens that at the “Ninos heroes de Nicaragua” primary school in Alamar, zone 12, four teachers resigned last year in 1st grade alone, when there are only a total of nine teachers who teach at this level.
The most feasible solution the school’s administration found was to increase class sizes, that is to say, from 20 children per classroom now to 30 or 35 in some cases. Is this really a good thing? Of course not, and least of all in first grade, where stability is a necessity for those who have begun to wobble their way down the educational path.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Higher Education, Jose Ramon Saborido, told Cuban TV that this year, approximately 245,000 students will enter higher education, which means that there will be 27,000 students more than last year who have the chance to study for free at our universities.
When they graduate, they will have a degree and an income of 450-600 Cuban pesos (20-30 USD), which won’t be enough to meet their most basic needs and will further feed our notorious “inverted pyramid” (the devaluation of professional jobs for more manual ones).
We also need to remember that a “new” content is being applied to all levels of education, “the study of Fidel Castro’s thoughts and actions.” Well, from now on, all teachers, or rather the 98% that are ready to give classes and teach, will teach their students about the Comandante’s ideas.
I could verify this for myself when I went to the first class for first year medical students at the “General Calixto Garcia” hospital, on August 28th, where they only recited quotes from Fidel Castro, replacing the greatest figures in Cuban medicine completely and even in some ways substituting the thinking of our national hero Jose Marti.
In a nutshell, this Monday September 4th, classes will start again for Cuban students, who will enjoy a free and “inclusive” system, where anyone who thinks differently will be labeled as having “serious ideological problems” and run the risk of making the list of people being kicked out of university longer. It will be a year which might be the same or better than the year before, but in any case, far from what they are showing us on TV.