Cuban Families Prepare for "Long Vacations" From School

The children have been out of class since the end of March and some parents are desperate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 June 2020 — “When I saw the news from the minister on the Roundtable program on TV I said to myself: uffff, it will be a long vacation.” Alicia Díaz, a resident of the municipality of Playa and mother of an eight-year-old girl, felt slightly dizzy when she heard the head of Education, Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, announce on national television that the classrooms will not open until September, at the beginning of a new school year.

“Taking into account the epidemiological conditions, the need to evolve to an increasingly favorable state and the priority that students have for us, it is advisable to restart teaching activities in educational institutions from the month of September,” Velázquez said in front of the cameras.

Diaz is, in spite everything, among the parents who have best endured the difficult task of becoming teachers during quarantine, because her daughter, she says, is very responsible.

“My daughter gets up on her own and turns on the TV at class time. If she has any questions, she asks me and, of course, I always answer within my means. Also, we are lucky that her teacher has created a WhatsApp group to respond to all the concerns that arise along our way among the mothers of the classroom,” she tells 14ymedio.

Since the end of last March, when the classrooms closed to slow down the progress of Covid-19, parents, guardians and grandparents have assumed the task of maintaining the continuity of studies in most of the subjects at all levels of education with the support of teleclasses.

For Olga, who lives in a shelter in the Havana municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, the experience has been very different from Alicia’s. “My son is in seventh grade, he was following on the first days because I forced him to wake up early, but it became hell to get him to keep his attention on the television and I got tired, copying the directions for the work he has to complete and between the two of us we made some progress. What worries me the most is the mathematics, I see he is lost there and in that subject I cannot help him.”

According to her account, her son’s math teacher has telephoned all the mothers — the fathers are rarely engaged in these matters — to see if they have any doubts about homework or subjects, but she, “unfortunately,”  does not have a cell phone or a landline. “I wish I could communicate all the time with the teacher to clarify my doubts but no, I’m left with the doubt.”

Sitting a few meters away, on a patched and dirty wooden bench, a woman looks at Olga with a stern face and interrupts. “This has not been the same for everyone. I don’t know what you’re complaining about if your son is a saint and you just have one. I have to deal with my entire gang. I am about to shoot myself,” she says, pointing the two fingers of her right hand to her temple.

The woman gets up and unloads in a speech that leads three neighbors to look out the window. “You know tmine oare four: the little one, who is in third grade; the twins, who are in fifth grade; and the big one, who is in eighth grade. None of them have their heads in school right now and I am alone with them, I can’t multiply myself to watch all those Teleclases. At first I tried, but there are too many and my head can’t take it all in. Also, I don’t have time, because I also have to go out and fight for food. Right now, look at where everyone is,” she complains and points to the entrance to the shelter where the children gather around a speaking playing reggaetonat full volume.

The minister promised on TV on Tuesday that the teaching activities will continue for two more weeks through television channels, especially Educational and Tele Rebelde, and noted that the official website Cubaeduca and the application MiclaseTV host all the content that has been taught for free. But this is a Distant possibility for families with few resources.

“At the right time, students will also be able to enjoy a vacation period,” said Velázquez Cobiella, who added that the study plans for the 2020-2021 school year are already being modified.

A primary school teacher residing in Luyanó, who prefers to remain anonymous, says that she has the majority of her students “under control” via WhatsApp. “The Internet has been a great advantage in this situation. Every day there are Teleclases we talk in the group that I created about the directions that were given and the mothers can post their questions, some of which I have had to monitor by calling.

The latest coronavirus outbreaks detected in Havana keep the authorities on alert, with the numbers as of today including 2,119 cases and 83 deaths. Cuban PresidentMiguel Díaz-Canel noted that “although the country is already preparing the entire strategy for the recovery stage of Covid-19, it cannot be applied until we are very sure that there is exact control of the epidemic.” A long summer awaits the families, who already started it in March.


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