For a long time when I heard the word teacher, it brought to mind the word respect; it was one of those unconscious associations from which the psychoanalysts draw surprising conclusions. I associated the noun that indicated this profession with the names and faces of all those who taught me from elementary school through the university, men and women endowed with patience and wisdom.
Now in Cuba, the word teacher calls forth other associations. I read in the newspaper Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party, that an official from the Ministry of Education said, “As parents we want the best teachers for our children, but we don’t like the idea of their deciding to be teachers themselves.” The fact is that the shortage of teachers has become a real crisis at almost all levels of education, due to the growing desertion of those who hold these positions and the reduction of those who enroll in schools of education. The problem has become so bad that the State has now created a class of what is called “emerging teachers,” who train to be the teachers of other children starting in the 11th grade, at age 16.
There are many causes that have led to this crisis and so far the solutions applied have only served to exacerbate the loss of prestige of this noble profession. The secret is that almost no one in Cuba lives on the salary they earn, but must rely on what they can find to steal, what we call “the diversion of resources,” from their workplace, be it time, materials or equipment. Teacher have no chance to earn some extra money this way and their salaries do not differ from others who do.
Now, when I hear the word teacher, what I feel is pity for those who are educators, for their students, and for the future of our country.