Two simultaneous news reports from last week, exposed the profound crisis of the educational system in Cuba.
The Cuban Minister of Education, Ena Elsa Velázquez, admitted that for the school year that will begin next September 3rd there will be a shortage of 10,000 teachers and professors. By estimating a low number of 25 students per teacher, there will be 250,000 Cuban children and adolescents that won’t have a teacher, at least for the beginning of the new school year.
And if that is bad, the next is not better. According to testimonies collected among parents of the students, they feel very pressured by the material requirements placed by the schools on the parents for the new school year.
As described by philologist Dalila Rodríguez from Camajuaní, Villa Clara, students are required to have a backpack, white stockings, uniforms, and shoes of certain characteristics, all of which are very expensive and difficult to acquire considering that the average monthly salary in Cuba is somewhat less than 30 dollars. Ironically $30.00 USD is the minimum amount established by the UN to define extreme poverty in Africa and other regions.
Parents are also required to pay $ 1 or $ 2 USD to buy ventilating fans for the classrooms. But it often happens that everytime the “next year arrives, the fans no longer exist”, as expressed by the pro democratic activist Yudaxis María Pérez to Radio Martí in Colón, Matanzas. They seem to be as expendable items as if they were light bulbs.
The way in which the government offers to “solve” the teacher shortage defines an educational disaster of its own. Students will be teaching classes, while new graduates and retired teachers will be hired. But as classes begin there will be 4 million students filling thousands of classrooms throughout the island without qualified teachers.
Obviously, the minister did not mention that the exodus of teachers is due to the very poor salaries they receive. They prefer to become “repasadores” ( private tutors), or open a small restaurant, work in tourism, as bicitaxis, or sell homemade croquettes.
Between 2009 and 2017, a total of 21,600 teachers left the classrooms, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information. By the end of the 2009 school year there were 270,038 teachers, but in the year of 2017 the amount dropped to 248,438.
Official data revealed that of the 19,859 openings available in 2015 to pursue pedagogical studies, only 4,398 persons enrolled. That is, 15,461 places (almost 80%) were left uncovered. Nobody was interested in them. Young people without vocation or aptitude for a teaching career do enroll in those plans but only to avoid to be draft by the Compulsory Military Service. Indeed “brave” teachers!
Cuban schools and universities have a dramatic technological and informational orphanhood. In this age of permanent innovation which opens a new era based on knowledge, the panorama of education in Cuba is sad, discouraging and frustrating.
There is no free access to the Internet, nor any updated study programs of the 21st century. Textbooks are missing, as well as essential equipment for classes and laboratory work. The buildings and furniture are falling apart. Corruption permeates the faculty and students. By offering gifts to the “profe” many students get to be fraudulently approved.
The educational backwardness in which Cubans are left – in the era of the Internet and the permanent technological revolution – should be considered a new type of crime against humanity caused by the obsolete Castro totalitarian regime,