Decent Work / Dora Leonor Mesa

Poverty is the cause and reason that makes the worker particularly vulnerable to psychological stress.

Source: IX Meeting of the Mixed Committee

OIT- OMS sobre Medicina del Trabajo (1984)

Juan Somavia defined it as “productive labor in which freedom, equality, security and dignity are conditions,  rights are respected and fair wage payment exists as well as social protection”.

The notion of decent work amounts then “to what people expect in their working lives”, a productive work with: Fair pay; Safety in the workplace; Social protection of families; Better perspectives for personal development and social integration; Freedom for individuals to express their concerns, organize and take part in the decisions that affect their life; Equality of opportunity and treatment for women and men.

What is the Decent Work?

Is an important condition to overcome poverty, reduce social inequalities and ensure sustainable development and a democratic government.

The impact of improper working conditions

Impact in numbers; Early aging; Workforce exhaustion; Mental health deterioration; Work stress; Absenteeism

Work related illnesses will double by year 2020 if no changes occur.  Per the Work Ministry in Japan, some cases including suicides are on the rise: 13 cases in 1995; 18 cases in 1996; 23 cases in 1997; 355 cases in 2005

Karoshi (death due to excess work): First case in 1969.

Causes of death: Heart attacks and strokes including subarachnoid hemorrhage (18.4%); cerebral hemorrhage (17.2%); heart attack or brain stroke (6.8%); myocardial infarction (9.8%); heart failure (18.7%); other causes (29.1%), including among them illnesses of rationalization.

The National Defense Council of the Victims of Death from Overwork (karoshi), is an institution that helps the victim’s families to obtain compensation and in many cases, fight endless judicial battles; it’s considered that karoshi affects annually around 10,000 Japanese employees.

Who commits suicide?: Any social status; Work hours with a medium of 10-12 hours without rest days.

What happens in China?: The life expectancy of the “brains” that lead the technology park in Zhongguancun, north of Beijing, considered the Chinese “Silicon Valley” is 54 years and 70% risk of death from “karoshi” (death due to excess work).

It also happens in Europe: The Appellate Court in Riom (Puy-de Dome) confirmed it in February 2000; In January 20, 1997 a man was found hanged, having been threatened with dismissal.

What is burn-out?  Some define it as a psychological retirement from work as an answer to dissatisfaction and excessive stress.

Dynamic Definition of burn-out: Labor Stress / Tiredness / Defensive Attitudes:  Rigidity, Cynicism and Indifference; Demand – Available Resources / Tension; Fatigue, Irritability.

Absenteeism: An employee who is absent from work “without reason” is showing his desire to leave that job forever.

How can we intervene to prevent this?: With the improvement of working conditions.  Improving the quality of the job is the central requirement to ensure health and security at work; so decent works exists.  It’s essential to prevention.

Translated by – LYD

23 September 2013

The Privatization of Education in Cuba: Kissing the Right Frog / Haroldo Dilla Alfonso (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s blog)

By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Dominican Republic, July 26, 2013, Originally posted on Cubaencuentro. Translation originally on Havana Times.

HAVANA TIMES — An ad for a private day care center in Havana has been posted on the Internet (including Cuba’s classifieds page, Revolico) for some days now. The owner, Zulema Rosales, is reportedly the daughter of General Rosales del Toro.

Since I don’t know this person, or the general’s family, or the general, for that matter, I can’t really confirm this claim. I don’t know whether they are good or bad people, if they are hard-working or lazy, honest or not. As such, none of this stems from a personal judgment of these individuals.

Read the rest of this post in English here, at the Havana Times

16 September 2013

No Respect for the Teacher / Victor Manuel Dominguez (Posted on Dora Leonor Mesa’s Blog)

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez

Havana, Cuba, 2.7.2013

Another academic year with more pain than glory comes to its end (2012/2013). Another mess-up. Never mind that the information media go on about the advances in the pedagogical methodology, the implementation of the plan, the improvement in the basics of study, the improvement in the learning of the student body, and exemplary discipline.

The parents, teachers, education sector managers and the students know it isn’t so.

The promises of better courses for the students are erased like words written in chalk. The fraud, corruption and the lack of interest in teaching or learning are common in the schools.

The reasons why, course after course, things go from bad to worse, are there. The frustration of many professional parents who hardly have enough to live on, the low salary of the educators who can’t survive to the end of the month, the corruption of many directors, and the lack of prospects on the part of the pupils, are more than enough to ensure things don’t get any better.

Obdulia Camacho (not her real name), librarian, ethnologist and professor of literature and Spanish for more than six decades, says that the education sector is one of the worst and most complex in the country, because of its influence on the formation of the people from infancy.

“Before, without learning, you couldn’t advance,” she said.

At the age of 80, she still works in the sector on a contract basis. Although, as she points out, because of her low pay (about 350 pesos in national money, $16 USD) she has had to work as an attendant in a hospital and receptionist in a primary school, as well as washing and ironing for anybody who wants it, looking after people who are ill, among other work she does to make up her salary, because she has a daughter and a grandchild to support.

In accordance with her authoritative opinion, indiscipline in the sector is general. The study plans leave much to be desired. Most education centers are in bad condition in regard to basic needs, sanitary fittings, but above all education is miserable because of lack of values and corruption.

“Last week,” she said, “the mother of a student in a school located at 20 de Mayo and Ayestarán in El Cerro, turned up very upset in the center’s management office and shouted that her daughter had to pass the physics exam, since she had paid $20 in order that she wouldn’t have any problem with the grade.”

In another school in Central Havana, a student taking an exam stood up in the middle of the class and, in a disrespectful and threatening manner, went up to a female teacher, who had been in the sector for more than 40 years, and shouted at her:” Hey you, cross-eyes, if I don’t come out well in this test, you will see what happens to you.”

The teacher started crying.

According to Obdulia, although such things can happen in any country, the causes are distinctly different in Cuba, whose educational system is permeated by a disproportionate control, coercion and indoctrination of the student body to the detriment of a free and universal education.

“It’s embarrassing”, she said, “that with so many basic problems, like indiscipline, the frustration on choosing a course which offers hardly any benefit, the sale of exams – recently recognised by the official press [1] – the favoritism and a thousand things more that demand radical change in the national educational system, they still talk as if nothing was wrong and they hold up the Cuban educational system as an example which the world should follow.

Another academic year with more pain than glory, comes to its end. The teachers dream that in the following year their pay will go up and their working conditions will improve. The parents pray because the vacations are coming up soon. And the students enjoy themselves away from a classroom which gives them more nightmares than dreams.

[1] Recognised recently in the official press.

Translated by GH

16 September 2013

Physical Punishment of Cuban Children is Common / Dora Leonor Mesa

Our Father who is in heaven!
Why have you forgotten me?
You remembered the fruit in February,
when your flesh became ruby
My side is open as well,
and you do not want to look at me!

Nocturno, G. Mistral

Peter Newell, coordinator of the GLOBAL INITIATIVE TO END ALL Corporal PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN is categorical in his 2010 report referring to corporal punishment inflicted upon Cuban children:

CUBA (second report – CRC/C/CUB/2)

Corporal punishment in the home

Corporal punishment in Cuban homes is legal.

The Family Code of 1975 allows “moderate” punishment by parents (article 86) and by those who are responsible for the care and/or education of children (article 152).

The legal regulations against violence and abuse in the Family Code (1975), Penal Code (1987) and the Constitution of the Republic, do not explicitly express prohibitions against corporal punishment in the upbringing of infants.

Corporal punishment outside the home

Corporal punishment in schools is legal.

The resolution, along with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education (1987) approved disciplinary regulations at work during educational activities. However, it is said that “every worker in educational activities can’t maltreat students by words or actions (article 4)” doesn’t specifically prohibit physical punishment. continue reading

In the penal system, physical punishment is criminal (article 30). This article also applies to prisons, but Mr. Newell explains that if evidence is lacking in other institutions pertaining to children it may conflict with the law. The Code of Children and Youth (1968) also does not prohibit the use of physical punishment in minor detainees.

Physical punishment is also legal in alternative child care centers …

On June 17th 2011, the Committee for Childrens’ Rights, later referred to as the Committee, in paragraph 36 section D. Civil Rights and Liberties (articles 7, 8, 13-17, 19 and 37 (a)) of the Convention (CRC), in the final report (CRC/C/CUB/2) explains its worries to the Cuban government given that:

Articles 86 and 152 of the Family Code are still enforced by the Cuban legislature. The committee highlights its dismay that corporal punishment is often used (in Cuba) as a disciplinary measure in schools as well as in social institutions.

In paragraph 37 the Committee recommended to the Cuban government that they pass legislation explicitly prohibited corporal punishment of children, both in State institutions and in the home.

The Committee defines “corporal” or “physical” punishment as any punishment that uses physical force with the objective of causing any pain or discomfort, however mild.

The Committee says that corporal punishment is always degrading. There are other forms of punishment that are not physical, but equally cruel and degrading, also incompatible with the Convention. There are punishments that humiliate, denigrate, scapegoat, threaten, terrify and ridicule the child.

Since September 2001, in the recommendations adopted following the general discussion on “Violence against children in the family and in schools,” the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged States to “urgently enact or repeal, as necessary, legislation so as to prohibit all forms of violence, however slight, in the family and in schools, including as a form of discipline, as provided in the Convention on Children’s Rights.”

Another result of the discussions held by the Committee in 2000 and 2001 was to request the Secretary-General of the United Nations, through the General Assembly, to conduct an in-depth international study on violence against children.

In 2001 the UN General Assembly enacted that recommendation. The United Nations study, conducted between 2003 and 2006, highlights “the need to ban all legalized violence against children, as well as a deep concern for the children themselves almost universal prevalence of corporal punishment in the family and for its persistent legality in many states, schools and other institutions, and correctional systems for children in conflict with the law.”

Fifteen years ago (1997), when Cuba presented an initial report before the Committee of Children’s Rights expressing its worries against the abuse committed against minors under the age of 18 and in this context recommended the development of a campaign to prevent corporal punishment. In 2011, the Committee calls on Cuba as a State to prioritize the elimination of all forms of violence against children, with particular attention in the case of girls. Among other recommendations proposed on the contentious issue, one stands out for its importance in Cuban society to help to discover how deep the scourge of violence against Cuban children is:

To consolidate a national data system, analysis and public dissemination that includes an agenda of investigation against child abuse.

 MEMBER STATES. Countries that are members of the United Nations.

PARTY STATE(S). Countries that have ratified an agreement or a convention and therefore are obliged to abide by its provisions.

Translated by: Alexis Rhyner and others

In the Path of Junko Tabei / Dora Leonor Mesa

Junko Tabei

Womanhood and motherhood is a blessing.  As women we are faced with many challenges in any part of the world despite the indisputable social advancements in the past decades, but one forgets when one fights to support* a family, including if you live in a country like Cuba, wretched thanks to the decision of a group of people; where on top of that everything is organized in such a manner that the difficulties and challenges are constant however planned the life you lead is.  The matter is complicated much more if you are poor.  Now maternity is not so fun, even though you bear it with that “the children didn’t ask you to bring them to Cuba.”

You can still be happy with three requisites: woman, mother and poor.  The hair really starts to get knotted with the fourth requirement: to be black.

Everything gets complicated.

Cuba, the beautiful and racist island of the Caribbean, where it is natural to be black and poor.

If a black woman dresses well and has money, many Cubans probably believe she is a well-known artist or athlete.  She’s not one of those?  Weird!  Does she have a foreign husband?  Of course!  In these cases it is recommended that one gets used to the title “girl from the streets with luck,” even though she is more demure than an angel and with more merits than a Nobel Prize.  Through these reflections the Japanese Junko Tabei arrived, born May 23, 1939, in the prefecture of Fukushima. She became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 16, 1975.

I am convinced that we need the courage and tenacity of this incredible mountain climber.  So we, the Cubans of African descent, can occupy the place we deserve in Cuban society with full rights.  And these places must be conquered with much sacrifice.  This respect to which we aspire is as steep as the will of Junko Tabei.  If the goal is not as high as Everest, we will lose our way.  In reality there are very notable Cubans of African descent, even though nothing changes.  Inevitable we have to follow the route of Junko Tabei.  Without sparing strength, without receiving applause. Struggle with faith against the eternal blizzards, the intolerable exhaustion…and the habit of always seeing ourselves as so humble, so conflicted.

8 August 2013

The Teaching of Zero in the Pre-school Years / Dora Leonor Mesa

By Karen Garcia

Zero symbolizes nothing.  It presents itself as the cornerstone of mathematics, mute protagonist of our arithmetical system.

The idea of zero developed in India starting in the 5th century B.C.  There various religions accepted the creation of the world starting from nothing.  The Hindus demonstrated that when you add it to any number it’s unchanged, while if you combine it using multiplication, the result is null.  Later they tried to use it as a divisor and the admired the appearance of infinity.  The Arabs transmitted this mathematical wisdom to Europe with the expansion of Islam.  The Jews also incorporated it into the Cabala, their mystical tradition, to create numerology.[1]

In the Cuban school, a child acquires the notion of the concept of zero in first grade. From a young age he knows how to recite the numbers up to great quantities but the concept of quantity and cardinal notion is usually acquired during the early years of primary school.  So the concept of zero appears in the resolution of concrete operations of addition and subtraction where the same represents the absence “of what one is going to share;” eg: I have a box of 5 candies and Pedro ate 5.  How many are left?[2]

In the mathematics textbook of first grade (Edited by Pueblo and Educacion.  8th edition, Cuba 2010) the natural numbers from 1-10 appear on page 11.  Starting from page 54, the number 0 appears on the number line.

During the teaching of preschool, an activity that could be used to introduce the concept of zero is to give each little one a small box of objects.  Mention to them that they are going to start with zero and ask them to signal the quantity, that is to say, that they take all the objects out of the box. It is recommended to write on the board the number 0, at the same time reminding that them that we start from this number and in this way constructing learning.  Instead of saying 1, 2, 3, 4,…once the toddler knows the abstract concept of number, it’s time to teach him to count: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4…. This way of teaching facilitates the concept of the number line that will be used later in the first grade of elementary school.

[1] Loria, Gino, Historia Sucinta de la Matematica, 1932

[2] Monaco Nancy I., El número cero ¿la nada matematica?, Buenos Aires, 2009

8 August 2013