Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” These wise words, spoken by a human rights advocate, ring true through the years and across the continents – from the tip of South Africa to the island nation of Cuba.
The Problem: Educational Oppression
In Cuba, Castro’s communist government maintains heavy-handed control over most aspects of civil society, including the educational system. Cuba students are schooled in the communist ideology and are taught only those things that benefit the government and promote its continued control. Education is simply another propaganda tool and human rights activists know that:
Educational oppression keeps people ignorant to the possibility of a free country. Whenever education is used as propaganda, the possibility for real political change is very unlikely. In other words, when a population of citizens grows up thinking that their government and their way of life is “normal” and they have no access to the outside world to learn any differently, than the government maintains the advantage of keeping its own people as ignorant as possible to the reality and possibility of democracy. And the bottom line is that people cannot demand what they do not know exists.
Educational oppression is another form of a human rights violation. While it’s not inflicting physical harm on anyone (like forced detentions and beatings), Cuba’s educational system is resulting in mental harm and is actively denying students their right to freedom of thought and expression. The government controlled educational process keeps Cuba students from having access to information that would allow them to truly think for themselves. And this is certainly a violation of some of the most basic rights that all people deserve.
The bottom line: Cuban students must be given freedom to learn, research and explore all ideas equally. When this happens, a generation of young Cubans will rise up, armed with the knowledge that a democracy is possible. Real change comes from within and it will start with students.
The reality is, though, that Cuban people today are already beginning to make these demands for a better way of life. Brave activists are risking their safety, their reputation, their careers and even their lives for the sake of gaining and sharing information. University students who are outspoken about their desire for open access to political ideas from the free world are severely persecuted, often kicked out of school and sometimes even detained or exiled.
The Solution: Cuba Students Scholarships
The Foundation of Human Rights in Cuba is a Miami based non-profit that is offering people a way to help these young Cubans. The organization exists to empower Cuban civil society through education, resourcing, training and by raising funds and awareness.
In order to oppose human rights violations and work towards building a democracy, the new “We Are One People” academic program is providing scholarships to Cuba students. This very exciting new venture has already launched with the successful arrival of 17 Cuban students to Miami Dade College in January of 2014.
With an objective, open and free educational experience under their belts, these students will be ready to go back to Cuba with the information they need to insight real change. Help us offer scholarships and truly free and empowering educational experiences to the next generation of Cubans.