The New School Year Begins in Cuba

By Antonio Recio

Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, Minister of Education. File Photo: Omara Garcia / AIN

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.

Jose Ramon Saborido, minister of Higher Education. Photo: SITVC

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.

Cuban university students.

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.


7 thoughts on “The New School Year Begins in Cuba

  • If it were not a serious subject, Kennedy Earle Clarke’s statement that “students in Cuba…….are equipped with a profession which can advance them in life.” would be laughable. As one whose family includes legal, medical and educational university graduates, I can vouch that although they would like the opportunity to ” life” they are denied it by the communist system and its determination to maintain equal levels of penury for all.
    Do tell everybody Kennedy Earle Clarke, how much does the average Cuban teacher earn per year compared with those you speak of in the US?
    I have always believed that education is beneficial, but I note that you lay the credit for US achievements being a consequence of a poor educational system, and the poverty evident in Cuba as a consequernce of the communist system.
    Maybe if Cuba copied the US, the standard of living would improve?

  • Your comment Ken about anthems is probably correct in virtually every country.

  • I think it’s fair to say that the daily recitation of The Lord’s Prayer and the singing of the national anthem were not meant to encourage us to become critical thinkers.
    I think that the anthems were meant to stir a patriotic response that would manifest itself in times of war. I take note that the Canadian Legion in my small town still has on its outer wall the words For King and Country.

  • LOOK who speaks about tolerance? There is nothing good about Cuba, yet, as he says, everybody is fleeing, but he is remaining. The opening Academic Year, which opens 4th September will see hundreds of STUDENTS from THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES who would, otherwise be unable to access a professional education to realize their dream in any major capitalist country, attending UNIVERSITIES in Cuba and glad for that privilege.

    I have spoken to quite a number of them who have expressed satisfaction about their stay in the country, the friendliness of the Cuban people and the high standard of the EDUCATION! WHY does Carlyle keep yapping about the socialist system? The educational advancement of the Cuban people could not have been realized under the capitalist Batista system which had 70% of the population illiterate. How many people in the USA can access a free University education without incurring debt?

    These students in Cuba and the THIRD WORLD are equipped with a profession which can advance them in life. In the USA, when the student graduates from College or University, they are saddled with debt and a large percentage of them have to be content with menial jobs working in FAST FOODS RESTAURANTS slaving for minimum wages with a degree, just in order to survive never mind to pay off the HUMONGOUS DEBTS they find themselves burdened with, after studying for years and graduating. How many THIRD WORLD STUDENTS AND EVEN USA students are totally unable to realize their dreams of becoming what they dream of becoming,in the BASTION of capitalism, How many of them?

    Brother Carlyle, please to change your tune, the notes are fading on the music sheets of STARK REALIZATION!! There is a huge shortage of Teachers in the USA due to the threat on their lives by unruly students. The teachers do not receive payment when Schools are on vacation and many of them do not return!!

  • Note Ken that I have not criticized those factors which reflect pride in Cuba – the national flag, national anthem etc as they are the possession of the people, not the communist regime. The regime deliberately endeavors to associate national pride with communism, but the two are far from being synonymous. The most glaring example of such distortion, is the use of the image of the ‘Apostle of Cuba’ Jose Marti as if he was a supporter of dictatorship and repression, when exactly the reverse is correct.
    Marti sought freedom for the individual, he earned his livelihood from free media and sought:
    “the welfare and prosperity of all Cubans”
    Although making justified criticisms of some aspects of the US where he lived, he also wrote of:
    “profound admiration for those many basic liberties and opportunities open to the vast majority of American citizens.”
    Another quote of Jose Marti which is worthy of reflection, is:
    “I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear.”
    How different a view is that, compared with the Castro system of imprisoning citizens for making criticism of the regime?
    In short Ken, there is a marked difference between my comments about political indoctrination in the Cuban educational system and the singing of a national anthem or recitation of a religious text. When I attended school – I am considerably older than you – we had a few Jewish fellow students who having fled Hitler’s National Socialism under which they would have been murdered along with millions of others, attended our morning prayers. But the Bible readings were taken from the Old Testament and on three mornings a week the Rabbi attended and they had separate prayers. The success of such policy was based upon tolerance – something which is anathema to communiism.

  • There was an element of indoctrination when I began First Grade in 1951. Each day we recited The Lord’s Prayer and on alternate days we sang Oh Canada or God Save the Queen. Now, 66 years later, those words still echo in my mind on ceremonial occasions.

  • This is an annual pantomime. The consititution defines the purpose of education as indoctrination and any new school books will continue to fulfill a similar role. In teaching the alphabet the letter C will continue to be represented by ‘Che’ Guevara, the letter F will continue to be represented by Celia Sanchez Manduley ‘La flor de la revolution’, the letter L will continue to show ‘Granma’ being tossed by stormy waves in pouring rain (lluvia), the letter G will be represented by a Guerilla wearing a red and black 26 armband and so on. University students will continue to quote Fidel within thesis for that is obligatory if they want to pass.
    The manipulation of statistics in Cuba is a well practiced fine art – how else can less than 10% of Cubans be black (official current figure is 9.9%). As the article points out, the shortage of qualified teachers is covered by enlarging the classes and by so doing enable the statistics to show little shortage. Es Cuba!

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