14ymedio, Carlos A. Torres Fleites, Santa Clara, 29 January 2018 — The constant trickle of teachers leaving the classrooms in Villa Clara province to work in another occupation or as private tutors does not cease. During the first four months of the 2017-2018 school year, 82 teachers left the classroom, increasing the deficit of professionals in the region, which in the last five years has seen the loss of more than 450 teachers throughout the province.
An official of the Ministry of Education (MINED), who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed to 14ymedio that professionals who decide to abandon teaching are mainly driven by the low salaries, and it is not uncommon for them to end up self-employed, working as private tutors.
Blanca Estévez Díaz, who works in the provincial labor department in Villa Clara, says that in the region there are some 70 private teachers in the provincial capital alone, and according to her they claim they have better working conditions and higher salaries than they did working in public education.
As of December of last year, a total of 322 teachers who at some time had been working in MINED educational institutions were self-employed in the province, where tourism, commerce or food service have also become sectors of refuge for those who decide leave teaching.
For Laura Martínez López, a former teacher at the Ernesto Guevara Vocational School in Santa Clara, exchanging her position as a teacher for her own food service business has been a relief that has solved multiple problems she faced in the 18 years in which he worked as a teacher.
Martínez received a monthly salary of 750 Cuban pesos (less than 30 dollars) without a benefit popularly called “stimulation” – i.e. a bonus – which is received by workers in other state sectors and which supplements the basic salary with a sum in cuban Convertible pesos, or with a bag of food and cleaning supplies.
In the opinion of several teachers consulted by this newspaper, the State must at least triple current salaries and improve conditions in schools to reverse the exodus of professionals seeking better economic and employment opportunities.
The authorities have tried to alleviate the deficit by accelerating the graduation of new teachers. Last year more than 3,800 teachers graduated nationally in the 24 schools of education across the country.
In the case of Villa Clara, more than 200 of these new teachers started in September teaching in pre-schools, primary schools and English education, after graduating from the Manuel Ascunce Domenech School of Education.
However, the shortage of teachers far exceeds in numbers those who arrive in the classroom from the pedagogical schools, along with the retired teachers who return to support their recently graduated colleagues and university students who teach some subjects. The current school year started with a deficit of 16,000 teachers throughout the country, as acknowledged by the Minister of Education, Ana Elsa Velázquez.
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