Cuban Education through the Keyhole / Somos+

Somos+, Amelia Albernas, 26 February 2016 — In my time, professors were proud of being what they were: a living gospel. We students were instructed by them and, furthermore, educated. The values and principles I have are thanks to my parents — one a psychologist and the other a history teacher — and to those teachers who had a true love for their profession.

Sadly, the new generations of Cubans don’t count and won’t be able to count on this. Material deficiencies and — why not? — spiritual ones, also, have wrecked the education that many of us received in past decades. The social and economic deterioration of the country has destroyed educational teaching. The exodus of teachers to other professions with better salaries is a reality that is striking but perfectly understandable. Our teachers lack great commitment, but it’s hard to ask for that commitment if salaries are low.

So it’s urgent and necessary that a profound change be produced in Cuban society and in the system of government, because a generation of sad, ignorant and lazy people will inherit this island, which José Martí defended with so much impetuous reason*.

It’s because of this that, today, I will share some ideas about what path our social project of Somos + should take in order to stop this disastrous process of demoralization in such an important sector as education. The nation owes an enormous debt to its teachers, and the general opinion is that there should be a more effective way to pay them.

The profession of teaching deserves respect and consideration.

Education, by necessity, should continue to be subsidized; this is an unavoidable principle for every nation and a human right. Apparently it’s not a way to earn money, but only apparently. In reality, school is the beginning of everything. Without an integral and convincing education it’s impossible to count on good professionals and technicians. But it’s to be noted that there should be no indoctrination and, much less, a personality cult of any man.

Education, for most of the dictatorial governments, means trying to direct children in order to reproduce the typical behaviors of the society they represent. For Somos+, education means making creators, inventors and innovators, not conformists. And because we have been and are witness to the enormous loss of values in the young generations that live today in our Cuban society, we champion an education where the maxim is to “drink from all sources, taking as a base the spring of our nationality**.”

Educating for creativity is educating for change and shaping people who are rich in originality, flexibility, future vision, initiative, confidence, risk-taking and readiness to confront the obstacles and problems that are presented to them in their lives as students and in everyday life, in addition to offering them tools for innovation.

Creativity can be developed through the educative process, favoring potentialities and making major use of individual and group resources inside the teaching and learning process.

Continuing with these ideas, we can’t speak of creative education without mentioning the importance of a creative atmosphere that fosters reflective and creative thought in the classroom.

The concept of creative education begins with the approach that creativity is linked to all spheres of human activity and is the product of a determined historical social evolution.

On the other hand, creative education implies a love for change. Creativity must be fostered in an atmosphere of psychological freedom and profound humanism, so that students feel capable of confronting what is new and giving it respect, teaching them to not fear change, but rather to feel at ease with it and enjoy it.

Based on our reasoning for a freer country, we state our principles:

“The best way to defend our rights is to know them; thus we keep faith and strength. Every nation will be unhappy as long as they don’t educate their children. A town of educated men will always be a town of free men. Education is the only way to free oneself from slavery.”

*Martí, José. Complete Works. Volume XVII.

**Taken from Ideas and Principles of the Movement Somos+.

Translated by Regina Anavy