Messages from Miss Universe and Dolls of No Color / Dora Leonor Mesa

“There exists the phenomenon of whitening, and if you being black do not proclaim yourself to be so, you are in a demagogic position, of little ethic. In Cuban culture it is fundamental to achieve that people assume and be what they are. The defiance lies in forming a conscience, in which there will be no racial prejudice, stereotype and racism.”

Dr Esteban Morales, Cuban political scientist and essayist

“Cuban Color”, Trabajadores (Workers) periodical, December 14, 2009, p. 7. Printed Edition.

The question came up by coincidence, while we were showing the nursery children the book “Barbie Anfitriona” –Barbie Hostess– (Mattel Inc., Megaediciones, 2003). Naturally, each girl wanted to be a Barbie. On the page offering recipes for a surprise lunch for the birthday of the best friend, there is a pretty photo with the three Barbies. Then a discussion began between two little ones whereby the one with very dark skin argues with her friend over the right to be the light-skinned Barbie with red hair. An incident without importance were it not for the glaring fact that the girl insisted and even cried because she was not black, but “mulata” (mestiza).

The results of the survey are not conclusive but have much in common with the experiences of North American lawyer Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993), who together with the Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), put together a panel of experts covering the fields of history, the economy, the political sciences and psychology. Of particular significance was a study in which psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark tried to determine how segregation affected the self-esteem and mental well-being of Afro North Americans. Among other impressive determinations, it was found that children between three and seven years of age preferred white dolls over black ones, all other things being equal.

Out of curiosity we made a superficial visit to the best-stocked toy stores in the Cuban capital and the observations made demonstrated that there are for sale no black dolls, or mestizas, although the offerings improve in stores specializing in handicrafts, in terms of those dolls dedicated to religious rituals, generally crafted of cloth and dressed in traditional garb. However it is relatively easy to buy at various prices, white dolls, be they Barbie or not, with straight hair in different colors, dressed with modern and elegant clothes.

It is absurd to evaluate racial and identity problems as something foreign to Cuban childhood. It is like attempting to cover the sun with one finger. Dr. Morales has demonstrated publicly the cultural insufficiencies in Cuban grade-school books in reference to African themes. It is known that “studies of gender and the feminist vision gave way in investigations and social analyses to other dimensions of inequality, such as racial, territorial, economic and of class” ( January 27, 2012).

The sociological studies carried out by governmental organizations like the Centro de Investigaciones Psicológicas y Sociales (CIPS: Center for Psychological and Social Research) among others, demonstrate that since the decade of the 90’s of the 20th century, when the Cuban government introduced the economic reforms that accompanied the circulation of a double currency, “the losers” are women, the black and mestizo population, the migrant and elderly, sectors that have been able to take less advantage of the opportunities opened up by the reform.

It is not easy to find current Cuban studies about racism and its dismal influence over childhood. Due to the rapid growth of boys and girls, we do not have the power to change from one day to the next the low self-esteem of Afro-descendant children, but it is within the reach of ACDEI (ASOCIACIÓN CUBANA PARA EL DESARROLLO DE LA EDUCACIÓN INFANTIL– Cuban Association for the Development of Childhood Education) to stimulate the self-esteem and confidence in themselves of those we educate. We gave away photos of 2010’s Miss Universe to white girls with a simple dedication:

Mom, dad and family:

Your daughter __________ is very pretty and if she studies a lot, learns to defend herself and practices sports, come tomorrow she can be as beautiful as Miss Universe 2010.

We did the same with the Afro-descendant little girls. The only difference was in the photos of different moments of Angolan Leila Lopes, Miss Universe 2011, which were distributed among the little girls with the note written over the main photo, where the recently crowned queen smiles beside Miss Universe 2010.

We do not know if, as the children of the daycare grow, they will accept their ethnic background, but at least we assume as a duty to invite their families to reflect with optimism on the subject.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”. These are words of Eleanor Roosevelt, president of the commission that drew up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the United Nations. ACDEI works to successfully deliver a message to children, their families and educators. Cuba is a multiracial nation, therefore the absent dolls with other features and colors of skin are necessary toys in toy stores. Besides, the dolls that are already on sale are going to be very happy with their company. Dolls are not racist!

Translated by: Maria Montoto

June 1 2012

The Rosa Parks Girls Close the Capitol in Havana / Dora Leonor Mesa

It is no coincidence that the women who struggle are called crazy,
because in reality they must underestimate something,
and this has been thus in the history of humanity,
because it is very difficult for them to recognize that woman also has a brain…
Elisa Carrió, founder of the Argentine political party
“Affirmation for a Republic of Equality (ARI)”, lawyer, university professor

For some it’s strange to relate Rosa Parks with the largest island in the Caribbean. The Rosa Parks Female Movement for Civil Rights was founded some time ago. Rosa Parks was a reserved and dignified lady who, in 1954, was arrested in Montgomery, a city in the south of the United States, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. This attitude of hers, so disconcerting in those years, provoked an ongoing popular movement for civil rights in the United States. Anyone was far from imagining that her exemplary attitude would arrive in Cuba.

In the insular history there is a Pleiades of talented and ferocious women: some are most beloved as Mariana Grajales, the mother of the Maceo generals. We have heroines and famous professionals. Others are virtually unknown although they gave their all: their hair, jewels, their life, for the country’s liberty; however the concept of passive resistance was practically unknown in Cuba.

Rosa Parks is at Saint Rita Church as of the first march of the Ladies in White, known worldwide today. The indomitable spirit of Rosa Parks, identical, penetrates each gladiolus, each reunion, each step. No money could pay for the beatings and daily humiliations those simple Cuban women must bear, and even though the populace claim that one of them must be an agent of Cuba’s National Security, one must also certainly recognize, her suffering is double. To stand beside convinced beings must be very hard for a woman, be she mother, wife, sister, and at the same time a spy. The patriotism with which she could be adorned is of scarce value now, after all life will send her the bill.

In spite of the departure of the tireless Laura Pollán, first a grade-school teacher and later a human rights leader, the spirit of Rosa Parks, which does as it pleases in the rest of the country, now adds an extraordinary deed to the History of Cuba: the closure, for months, of the main entrance of the Havana Capitol, the most emblematic edifice of the Capital to all Cubans, constructed in the 30′s decade of the past century.

Four women from the Rosa Parks Female Movement for Civil Rights behave, apparently, like the boys and girls that rode skates and skateboards on the Capitol steps. With the same self-assurance and ruckus, they exhibited a bed sheet with signs that said: “Down with the Dictatorship” and “Long Live Human Rights.” Incredible!

These “cuatro gatas“, a mere handful of the Parks group, make history in August of 2011. Little did they care about the month of the “Maleconazo of 1994″, the so-called “vacations” of many with crumbs and hunger, the breaks on the beaches devoid of palms and umbrellas. Once ex-president Fidel Castro labeled “chicas locas” — crazy girls — those young women who prostitute themselves due to their unending squalor. Now (Thank you, Rosa!) nobody calls these four women crazy; at most, “dangerous”.

The Cuban capitol was partly to blame for all that transpired, constructed in the image and likeness of the one in Washington. Rosa Parks, from another dimension, once again felt the same as in the decade of the fifties. She believed the events were repeating and God only knows how the beliefs of these Cuban ladies were mixed with those she always held. The power of convictions and ideas is without discussion, so for now, the lavish entrance of the Capitol remains closed as of the end of August 2011.

Within the building, the Statue of the Republic awaits sad and lonely. Perhaps she believes that now no one remembers her, so famous for her beauty and size in her time. But no, we must convince her that we continue loving the Republic of Cuba, and although they insist that it is not so, the majority of the Cuban people comment between looks of complicity and kidding around:

…the Capitol still remains closed due to the repairs of:

Sara Marta Fonseca
Mercedes Evelyn García
Odalys Sanabria
Tania Maldonado Santos

There is no joke, nor does there exist, in my belief, any motive for laughter. The ladies of Rosa Parks have before them a colossal task. Each Cuban energy, within their means, will have to help them. Otherwise, some day we shall run into the Statue of the Republic crying in the Hall of Forgotten Steps. We allow the valuable metal of her body turn to mud.

Translated by: Maria Montoto

May 29 2012

Project Plapliplo Teacher: Agent of Internal Change / Dora Leonor Mesa

A change that has affected me personally has been the creation of the Cuban Association for the Development of Child Education, referred to hereafter by its initials ACDEI, founded as an association on September 22, 2010. Previously it was treated as a community project called Plapliplo, with students from primary education.

One of the essential objectives of project Plapliplo was to raise the educational quality of low income children. The project aimed to become a base of support for the Official System of Primary Education in the community. It began with pre-school through sixth grade, although in practice it began successfully from first grade through fourth. On that student level, the student body had acquired sufficient abilities to be able to continue its studies without the help of the project. As a teacher, my relationship was limited to that existing between teacher, family and student. The activities were very heart warming and my task was dedicated but much simpler than what came later. The changes introduced in the project may be simplified in the following way: a new focus on how to impart lessons and create the independence necessary in the student body so that it is capable of assuming new academic and social roles.

I must mention that it was not simple to demolish the barriers that are within some Cuban parents in order to achieve what appears to be a good attitude towards the change in teaching strategy. It required an effort of all those involved, the students, their families and me. At the end of four years I discovered that my work had been monitored by education managers of municipalities of the capital. It was simultaneously a surprise and joy; I knew that inside of the group there were parents opposed to the changes although they continued in the project to the end.

No education officials could object to the lessons I imparted and the dosage used; from the beginning I focused on the official program of instruction, and the only thing that I did was change the strategy of the same with the use of technological resources. The families of the students were involved in the introduction of the changes because they had the right to participate in order to feel valued and to take on their commitment with greater pleasure.

I quickly identified the resisters in order to direct efforts especially towards them. I communicated constantly with everyone but in particular with those most distrustful. I was understanding before their fears and firm at the same time. I knew better than they what I was confronting. I always consulted other teachers and was enriched by their experiences. Debates perfect daily work; no teacher should fear them.

Translated by mlk

January 17 2012

The Sword of Damocles over the Weekly Adelante; Libel and Legal Peril / Dora Leonor Mesa

In Cuba, using children for violent political acts has become repeated and dangerous — the well-known “Acts of Repudiation” — a kind of propaganda without the permission of the parents, harassing the children of people who do not sympathize with the government and other violations that appear in the Penal Code of the Republic of Cuba.

News from the Radio Marti program “Cuba today” and

They used the son of an opponent in order to judge that opponent’s political ideas”

On the 24th of February, 2012, the official weekly Adelante of Camagey Province published an article by the journalist Enrique Milanés León where he uses the child Dainel Gonzalez, seven years of age, from a family of government opponents, in order to judge his father for his father’s political ideas.

The publication of the local Communist Party titled “Incurable handicap who conspires against the country that keeps his son alive” takes upon itself to highlight the illness that Dainel suffers from, the one for which he receives free medical care and education.

“The father of this child contributes to the manipulation of the Cuban reality, without keeping in mind the efforts of the Revolution to attend to the suffering of his son,” Milanés León emphasized in one of his photo captions and in the second part of his work he refers to the father of this child and independent journalist Joan David González as “yet another who gets up and goes with difficulty” owing to the fact that he is missing one leg.

Without the permission of his parents, the press took photos of the child, meanwhile they came and even asked him to pose as if he were writing in his workbook.

“The child does confirm that this gentleman appeared before him, asked him several things even asking him if he would pose for him writing in his work book and when our son asked him for whom was this for, the journalist told him that it was for a Pioneers magazine( a children’s political magazine),”affirmed Joan David González.

Victim:Dainel Gonzalez, Seven years of age

Name of Mother:Diana Eliza

Name of Father:Joan David González

Address of the Family:Santa Cruz del Sur

Address of the victim’s school:Not available

Accost:to pursue, to pressure, to pester someone with bothersome tasks or demands.

Libel: Writing that denigrates or defames someone or something.

Presumed guilty:Enrique Milanés León, journalist for the official weeklyAdelanteof Camaguey Province, Cuba

Address of the victim’s school:Not available

Analysis of news not taken into account by the weeklyAdelante

1. The security of the school where Dainel González studies and that the boys and girls attend is very vulnerable because access of the press to the classrooms is prohibited in Cuba without an authorization from the local or provincial government. Neither is the entry of people outside the employ of the school permitted.

2. Other students are also at risk. The teacher was told that they were going to write a profile of the group. If it is true what the teacher alleges, this situation should be made known to the principal of the school because similar procedures have to be authorized directly by, at the very least, the town educational authorities.

3. The absence of the teacher from the classroom must be confirmed. If it is certain and without justification, then this is abandonment of the children during school hours. It would be advisable to reprimand if this conduct is routine and would be an additional factor that works against the security of the children.

“On that day of the photos, she was not in the classroom because when I picked up my son, he told me that the teacher wasn’t there,” continued Diana Eliza, the mother of the child, in her explanation.

4. There are contradictions in what the teacher describes: a characterization was going to be done of the group. And the questions of the journalist to the child: who was the teacher and how was she? The comments of the teacher raise more doubts than they clarify.

“I’m ashamed that I’ve been a participant in this. I never imagined that they were going to do this,” said Yaniusdy Betancourt to Diana Eliza. Then how many people entered the school? Who besides those attached to the school approached the child in one way or another?

5. The Cuban School of Journalism has a manual of ethics and a code of conduct. Also, Cuba is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, an international legal tool and a binding agreement. Did the news article have the approval of an immediate supervisor, a middle manager, a supervisor of the reporting division or an editor in charge?

Journalists often gather information in a way similar to a police investigator or a historian when they compile verifications and can themselves see the necessity of checking the veracity of their notes in court. If someone attached to the profession wishes to break the rules, journalists of government media must learn to defend themselves. It’s not necessary to be an opponent of the government in order to go to jail. There are already people of the media industry in Cuban courts, some may even be accused in international courts. It wouldn’t be the first time, it even happens in democratic countries.

Translated by William Fitzhugh

May 4 2012

Short Words for Uncle Banano / Dora Leonor Mesa


Unmoved. Challenging the laws that prohibit street sales, looking for the shelter from the bad weather, for a while Uncle Banano has been moving forward with his wheelbarrow and good humor. He shouts out of tune: I selllll bananaaas, the bessst!!!

Cuban bananas are expensive and Uncle Banano knows their price better than anyone. It is still not clear to me why his tenacity reminds me of a forty-something Cuban woman when we casually walked into an ETECSA (Telecommunications Company of Cuba) office (callpoint). She used a cellphone for her business even though there was still the shameless law in effect where their purchase and use was reserved exclusively for foreigners, unhappy and surprised at the absurd injustice. “Things of the Red Caribbean,” the lady commented with cynical jocularity.

Through her I also found out that the above-mentioned law — ETECSA or the Ministry of Communications? — was “seasoned” with an almost secret clause, much used by state vendors. It was the second time that she had paid to activate the phone line at a price similar to that of the jewels of the Queen of England. On the purchase contract, the owner was John Doe, a friend that walked away happy for the favor and when, so stupid, she returned to the ETECSA store with the property received, she encountered the same happy face that had sold her the device, this time saying:

“I’m sorry. John Doe has to personally come to do the paperwork.”

“The type of paperwork doesn’t matter. If it weren’t for the number of people tricked, it would seem to be a Les Luthier skit,” she stressed.

She calmly described how with a single blow, her only means of communication disappeared, and although the weight of the lost money was daunting, in a few minutes she left to try the property trick with another cell phone… a luxury in Cuba according to fools.

Uncle Banano jokes and does not give up; he only thinks about his affairs, his earnings, his merchandise. However, at the moment, day by day, he stops selling. The kids run to hide when he approaches. The persistent merchant pretends to look in the humble nursery. He takes a bunch of bananas from his wheelbarrow, half magic, half game. Free for his favorite customers! The kids are excited by the known prank and the no less-expected gift of the sturdy golden sweets. The shouts of “Uncle Banano is here!” ignite a party. Lunchtime. The assistant that watches the children, slowly collects the treasure and smiles gratefully. So it happens year after year, day after day.

Each bunch that the seller regularly gives to the nursery is almost half a day’s wages at a state job. There is no way to know how much the boys and girls know about Uncle Banana. It is likely that they never forget the delicious flavor of that fruit or the ecstasy that precedes them. It is nice what they learn from the beauty of the gesture although they do not recognize the invincible banana man. Who knows if they will be able to tell their own children about that good citizen, who gave them humble bananas, so appetizing, so dear, at times unreachable.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

January 20 2012

Women Leaders in Conditions of Failure / Dora Leonor Mesa

Political Participation of women and Psychology (Extract)

J. Fransciso Morales* – Isabel Cuadrado**

The distance that measures the expanding legislation to favor the political participation of women and the data that, again and again, speak about a permanent male domination of this field serves as a reminder of the struggles of women to achieve equality.  These have been developing without interruption since the days of the first suffragists until now and, as is widely-known, with an active opposition and tenacity of extensive and important parts of society, opposition that, not having been the object of systematic analysis, is unknown in its structure and dynamics.

The question is what can psychology contribute in this area, meaning, if and how can it help reveal the enigma of the disequilibrium of genders in political participation.  At first glance, it appears that it can reveal only a little.  Definitely, and as Garzon indicates (2001, p. 347), traditional Political Psychology has its objects of study perfectly delimited (in words of the author, it has “a circumscribed collection of topics”), and between those one cannot find the central issue that is revealed in this work.

At the current time, Political Psychology is open to new ways of thinking.  Concretely, the new approach of political psychology as a resource is moving away from the traditional concept of discipline and is becoming “a strategy, a tool to relate different realities.”  Upon attempting to demonstrate that the male domination in the confines of politics is a reflection of consolidated social practices and that its disappearance would require a deep social change, it is connected with the newly supported approach by the cited author.

The glass cliff in the political world

In an attempt to understand the low female representation in the political leadership, Ryan, Haslam and Kulich (2010) have investigated the types of political opportunities that women are offered, the positions they achieve when they take on political positions and the barriers to them that they face up to to carry out such positions.  For that reason, they examine those aspects from the perfect of the “glass cliff” (crystal precipice).  This focus supports his view that women have a better chance than men of occupying positions of leadership that involve a higher risk of failure (Ryan and Haslam, 2005, 2007).

This line of investigation has centered until now on organizational leadership.  In this world, the authors start reviewing the data from 100 British businesses and confirming that women tend to be in positions of leadership in those companies that are going through moments of crisis.  Over the various studies carried out in different contexts and with diverse participants, Haslam and Ryan (2008) confirmed that it was considered more appropriate for a women candidate to occupy a position of leadership than a man when the performance of a company is worsening (as opposed to when it is improving).

A study carried out recently in Spain (Cuadrado, Molero, and Garcia, 2009) has confirmed this fact, showing that, in conditions of failure, the women are better evaluated than the men, meaning, they are considered more competent to occupy those positions.  On the contrary, men are better evaluated than the women in conditions of success.

Due to that in said study it is unknown if this phenomenon is due to the experience or lower qualifications of women in this scope or if it is due more directly to gender, per se, Ryan et. al. (2010), carried out a study in that they control this and other variables.  In the said study, they examined the preference for men or women candidates in the selection phase of a fictitious by election (local elections held to fill a position when the holder resigns or dies).  It was found that women emerge as the preferred candidate for a difficult seat to win, while if the possibility to win it are raised, a man is preferred.


UNED*- University of Almería**   Political Psychology, N 42, 2011, 29-44 ]

Translated by: BW

February 2 2012

The Incomprehensible Bastion of Faith in a Social Project / Dora Leonor Mesa

I was surprised when I compared myself to Teresa, one of the characters from Milan Kundera’s book ‘La Insoportable Levedad del Ser’ (The Unbearable Lightness of Being). In one of the scenes in the book Teresa takes some photos of the tanks in the Russian invasion of Prague to Switzerland and, instead of accepting them, the editor of an important magazine, saddened, shows the photos to a colleague who suggests the ‘pig-headed’ woman photograph cacti instead.

Something similar happened to me whenI started to promote the creation of an association focused on Cuban children, although instead of ‘photographing cacti’ they hoped that I’d throw myself at one of the prickly plants. No matter, that’s what happens with citizen activism in a place where the citizen is invisible.

Avoiding the troubles involved with my house and a state organisation, the steps were taken for the legalization of ACDEI (Cuban Association for the Development of Infant Education) and, shortly afterwards, we got the litigious and beloved documents which is recognised in Cuba as meaning ‘there exists no organization with the name and objectives of the Cuban Association for the Development of Infant Education’.

This has meant that the Ministry of Justice has bought time through not properly making things clear that the documentation we presented should have been directed ‘towards the organ, organism or state dependence which is related to the objectives and activities which the association will develop…’ based on that stipulated in Article 6, Chapter II of Law 54.

Supposing that the affair is resolved favourably thanks to the timely diligence of the Judicial Association of Cuba, forseeable legal obstacles still remain. Law No.54 ‘Law of Associations of the Republic of Cuba’ has certain regulations which strike fear into the instigators of a civil society. One of those is in Chapter I Article 5:

‘Associations must have 30 members as a minimum, except in exceptional cases in which the Ministry of Justice will be able to authorise their setting up and running with a figure lower than that specified above’. There’s no need to evenbother with Articles 7 and 8. They deal with the sporadic set up of Civil Society organizations.

We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that ACDEI will not be legalized, given the existence of the aforementioned Article 5, as well as the ‘inconvenience’ of activists with their selfless work and attitude, without intending to, calling into question the current work of play groups (state nurseries).

We should point out that private nursery schools have worked in Cuba for years, even though they are receiving more attention at present because of the economic situation in Cuba, without dismissing the work of ACDEI and this blog Plapliplo. In investigations that we’ve carried out and that are available online this topic is covered in detail.

Kundera’s Teresa refused to photograph cacti and was considered ‘limited’,’anachronistic’…We’re all like this, we of the ACDEI. Instead of thinking about earning money, we waste time in training lifeguards for our nurseries, children’s toys and furniture etc.

Although we’re far from saints, the words of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, comfort us:

‘If you’ve said that you’re an idealist, a dreamer, a madman, a defender of impossible aims and a friend of lost causes and, even so, you carry on…may you know that you are not alone’.

God is our judge and companion. He will decide the winner. Those who win are those who tell the truth and only that.

Translated by: Sian Creely

January 6 2012

The Digital Divide Between the Education Systems of Cuba and Latin America / Dora Leonor Mesa

One of the most relevant initiatives put forth by the Latin American community of nations in recent years is the project “Educational Goals 2021: the education we want for the bicentennial generation” (A look at education in Latin American (2011))

Its objective is to improve the quality of education and equity in education in order to confront poverty and inequality, and to promote social inclusion.  It deals with an approach to as of yet unresolved problems such as illiteracy, students leaving school early, child labour, low student achievement, and the poor quality of public school offerings.  It attempts to confront, at the same time, the pressing societal demand for information and knowledge: the incorporation of information and communication technologies (TIC) in teaching and learning, and the encouragement of innovation and creativity, and the development of scientific research and progress (page 8).

With the aim of elaborating the afore-mentioned benchmarks of progress, the promoters of the project “Educational Goals 2021” considered it necessary to begin with an analysis of the present situation, that outlines the reality in which education finds itself in the Latin American countries in the areas defined by the 2021 Goals. The base year results of the study are from 2010.  Some indicators include references to previous years as it was not always possible to find the appropriate data.

The overview offered by the OEI (Organization of Iberoamerican States) are solid enough to be taken as a point of reference with respect to Cuba and the rest of Latin America.  The bulk of the information in the document is available from other institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations.

In the future, a number of diverse indicators will form the basis of a comparative analysis of the impact of the information age in Latin America and Cuba.

Average number of students per computer

The development of TIC indicators in the realm of education raises the need to quantity some dimension of this reality, beginning with a fundamental aspect of its functioning: that of structure.  In this way, a common and generally accepted indicator to measure the extent of computer use in schools came to light – that is, the student-computer ratio.  Among other things, comparisons between countries can be made using this ratio and one can see the extent of the gap that separates Latin America from developed nations.

With respect to the use of the computer and the ratio of students per computer, an initial observation is the existence of a general consensus as to the importance of using the TIC as learning tools.  Upon weighing the present situation in Iberoamerica, however, some marked differences may be observed.  Compared to countries promoting a policy of a 1:1 student-computer ratio (Portugal, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Spain, among others) some countries have a very high student-computer ration.  Cuba reports a ratio greater than 30:1, one of the highest rates in Iberoamerica.  (Miradas sobre la educación en Iberoamérica, 2011, page 177)

A first difficulty lies in the different purposes for which computers are used in schools. In general, most Latin American countries have opted to add the total number of existing computers in schools, whether they are used for administrative, educational or both. El Salvador specifically mentioned that decision, while limiting its response to the number of computers in the schools, without reference to the number of students. As an exception to that rule, we may cite the case of Spain, which calculates considering just the computers used for teaching and learning tasks.

On the other hand, in connection with the use most of Latin American countries are making of ICTs, it shows that in many cases it is primarily aimed at achieving technological literacy of students. Despite the diversity of situations in the region, a positive fact is that no country supports never using use computers within the educational environment, but in many cases use is limited to  computer rooms, as happens in Cuba.

The MIRADAS report acknowledges that there are currently no standardized assessment systems that allow us to have concrete data about impact ICTs have on learning. The absence of these data is of concern, while more than 700 research efforts in the U.S. on the subject confirm the positive effect of ICTs in the learning of students with access to computers, either when they receive their instruction through them, or use learning technology systems in collaborative groups or networks (Schacter, J., 1999)

Strong evidence exists that learning with TIC is less effective when learning objectives are not well defined and the purpose for utilizing technology is controversial.  Insofar as primary education is concerned, experts recommend that we think about education first and technology later.  (Schacter, J. pg. 10).

Today, indicators need to be developed that can measure the effect or impact of educational objectives, an aspect that goes hand in hand with the development of other additional disciplines, such as cognitive psychology to assess learning processes mediated by ICT. This constant reformulation is part of the digital paradigm which, linked to the learning process, is continually generating new returns in terms of applications, content, competences, action plans, and, naturally, solutions.

Translated by: Scott and jCS

November 25 2011

The Imaginary Traffic Light Game / Dora Leonor Mesa

It’s complicated to prepare a preschool class according to present pedagogical standards if resources are lacking or the owners of a nursery don’t have a clear idea of what they need.  On top of small problems you must also teach preschoolers of differing ages.  The experts’ recommendations don’t matter when deciding on activities.  Generally it’s hard to bear them in mind if the children cry over joining in.

You run into cases of young children with brain damage who learn to count and interact the same as the others, or with kids only 3 years of age whose behaviour and reasoning is that of a 5-year-old.  Babies who refuse to stay in the play pen and must be given a book so that they might ‘join in’, they already know the colours and they make efforts to learn shapes, even recognising when a piece is missing.

The traffic light game is, in my regard, a good example of a pre-school class facing difficult conditions. There are several aims: to learn colours, vocabulary, to use a pencil, to follow instructions and to recognise the world in which they live.

The materials used are sheets printed with traffic lights — simple rectangle — the circles are outlined in the colour of the corresponding light, pencils and balloons in green, yellow and red and, if they are available, small chairs and tables.  If not, you sit down on the floor with the children and get going.

Part I.  The drawing.  Each child gets a sheet with a traffic light printed on it and should colour, according to their abilities, the lights according the colour of each circle.  The teachers should be checking to make sure that they colour each colour in its right place.

Part II.  The game.  The group of different ages (3 to 5 years old) play to be the traffic light — 3 students each with a balloon the colour of one of the lights — and driving their imaginary car or choo choo train (one child behind another moving in a zig zag).  Another child plays the traffic police and sets ‘very high fines’ to avoid accidents.

You should explain what an accident is with different examples and mime so that they understand better.  If anyone falls over say the word: fallen, accident.  Few cry unless it’s really painful.  As they say “crying as you please makes you ugly in the photo.”  The camera is always ready to show their face and they see the difference.  No one wants to be ugly.  For the others you say to smiling participants “the little frog will be fine come tomorrow morning time”…

The little ‘traffic lights’ are stood in a place which allows the ‘cars’ to pass in front, behind and to different places.  If a ‘traffic light’ child doesn’t react when someone is waiting for them, explain to them that the traffic light could break down at any time and the driver should be alert to any possible problems.

The length of the class is 30 to 45 minutes.  The owners and their employees, called teachers in our classes, are very alert to the most fidgety children, whilst they also learn simple techniques so that their students acquire essential social and intellectual skills during their cognitive development.

In Cuba it is not required for owners and employees of nurseries to have the indispensable pedagogical knowledge to carry out a service which entails so much responsibility.  The reasons are diverse, amongst them that it makes bad business and is not profitable and very few people are interested in teaching.

For the parents, choosing a private nursery is a matter to be taken very seriously.  I should admit that many owners are well prepared for working in the state nursery schools, but they don’t have the up-to-date knowledge.  However their daily job is decidedly selfless.  Sometimes I ask myself if society is grateful to them in any way.  I’d like to believe that they are fully aware of the social importance of what they do.  The majority of the mistakes they make is due more to a lack of proper training and resources than laziness.

Translated by: Sian Creely

A Viewpoint Regarding Everyday Homophobia / Dora Leonor Mesa

The Motherland is joy for all, pain for all and heaven for all,
and nobody’s fiefdom or chaplaincy.
Jose Marti

In Cuba’s educator circles, the proper attention to the sexual orientation of students is lacking.

In my judgement we are a homophobic society whether in a conscious way or not. Matter of fact, some of the worst insults used against others are: “tortillera” (lesbian) or “pajaro” (gay). There were other times when other defiant expressions were “marimacha” for females, and “pato“, “flojo” or “loca” for males.

The few advances in the matter of sexual diversity that have occurred in the country are a function of several factors, some of them, inevitable. The population up to a point have gained some comprehension and interest regarding this matter, a change in postures towards homosexuality timidly comes forward.

It is not difficult for an experienced teacher to discern with much effectiveness the sexual orientation of pupils in an elementary school The attitude that teachers take, for lack of better strategies and training, swings between “alerting” the parents to “turning a blind eye,” in the event that the heterosexuality of the boy or the girl is not “properly defined”, only to be commented upon on later among the teachers themselves.

The theme of homosexuality has been taken up with more or less success by visual artists, film directors — the well received “Fresas y Chocolate” (“Strawberries and Chocolate“) is a good example — as well as intellectuals and writers. The climax arrived with Mariela Castro, director of CENESEX, The Cuban Center for Sex Education, and wide diffusion of her objectives. Other initiatives in favor of the rights of lesbians and gays gain strength. Among the most recognized is Observatorio Cubano de los Derechos LGBT (“Cuban Observatory for LGBT Rights”) directed by Leannes Imbert Acosta.

From my perspective on the matter, any citizen initiative in favor of minority human rights is valid. In the case of gays or lesbians it must pointed out that the suffering inflicted on them in the majority of classrooms is real. Any manifestation from an adolescent is to some extent emotive, but if the adolescent is gay or lesbian, it is qualified as exaggerated or indecent.

The cases of physical or psychological assault on both boys and girls in secondary and college preparatory education are not rare, coming from their classmates as much as from teachers. Some years ago I witnessed how the assistant principal of a secondary school humiliated a pupil on a daily basis while all of us fathers and mothers of students were almost convinced that the teacher was also gay. The attitude of the child’s family seemed inexplicable to me always. I learned later that the knowledge and courage required to come to the defense of someone has to wend its way through one’s own self-esteem and the laws or training related to conflict resolution.

Several transsexual weddings have been celebrated in Cuba. Mere drops in the ocean of ignorance and disgust with which the majority of the citizens look at them. The scant information about the topic, the prejudices of centuries, add even more fuel to the fire of the difficulties that accompany this part of our Youth.

The Education Ministry in Cuba and civil society along with other entities, state or not, have talented professionals, ready to take an interest in this matter, and create proper communication. All it needs is space to work in peace and trust.

The State needs more people interested in being teachers or collaborators within the teaching system; as such, it should show the indispensable concern and generosity to help many more of the ones who today – lesbians and gays – are students and who tomorrow, who knows, may be highly qualified citizens, ceaseless workers, renowned scientists. They are Cubans, they are worthy of the full enjoyment of their lives and successes. The right to be proud of their sexuality belongs to them.

Translated by: lapizcero

September 29 2011