14ymedio, Madrid, 23 October 2023 — It has been almost two months since the official start of the school year in Cuba, and in some schools the first class in some subjects has not yet been given due to the lack of teachers. The situation is not new in a country that has been suffering a plummeting number of teachers for years, but the deficit is clearly gaining strength and in just one month has increased by at least 7,000.
At the end of August, days before the beginning of the course, the Minister of Education, Ena Elsa Velázquez, acknowledged that 10,000 teachers were missing, but at the end of September the real figure was 17,278, according to the general director of Basic Education, Marlén Triana Mederos. With that number, the deficit is 3,200 in secondary schools alone, says the official, who specifies the national coverage at 88%. The provinces with the most problems are, persistently, Havana, Mayabeque, Artemisa, Matanzas and Sancti Spíritus.
The provinces with the most problems are, persistently, Havana, Mayabeque, Artemisa, Matanzas and Sancti Spíritus
The data come from a brief report on the Cuban Television news that analyzes with concern the “complex” situation of what it calls “one of the pillars of Cuban society” and which, in its opinion, does not escape the “impact” of the economic situation. The resource of students from pedagogical schools is insufficient, as is the fact that some teachers are doubling their classes and teaching subjects that they barely know.
In 2014 – which gives an idea of how far back the origin of the “complex” scenario goes – the Educating with Love program emerged, in which student assistants reinforce the lack of teaching coverage in classrooms throughout the country. But this bandaid cannot contain the hemorrhage of teaching professionals, and the Government has no way to solve it economically.
According to the report, the authorities are “on the verge of” implementing measures to help the teachers, but they recognize that, although a higher salary could contribute to retaining staff, each territory, municipality and institution must look for their own tools, which the Ministry of Education itself says is “a quite complex problem. Today in the country there are 1,163 high schools with more than 32,000 teachers.”
In the video, several teachers intervene to explain the difficulties they face and how the quality of teaching has deteriorated, in addition to claiming that classes are delayed to ensure that the students have learned the material. “We are not talking about an even cut for all institutions,” they clarify, and the measures have to be considered in each educational center.
Among the causes identified by the national television report for the loss of teachers are the usual ones, from low wages to emigration. An important number go to another job and not to another school, the report highlights, a case very similar to that of doctors, who assume that they will earn more in any self-employed business and have fewer personal problems than in vocations that impose the difficulty of working properly, with repercussions on the lives of people, students or patients, in each case.
Talía González, the journalist who prepared the report, says on her social networks that it’s a situation “that cannot be ignored” and that the Ministry is trying to take measures. “All education workers need to be stimulated, recognized and congratulated, because exhausted and overwhelmed we continue to contribute the best we can,” a teacher responds. More belligerent, another user replies that in Higher Education the situation is identical.
An important number go to another job and not to another school, the report highlights, a case very similar to that of doctors
“Deans, vice deans, researchers, scientists often have a lower salary than a prison guard, just to give an example,” she says. “Without discrediting anyone’s work (…) right now you can find a private business where a significant number of its workers are PhDs, have master’s degrees, are full and assistant professors … serving you a soft drink or baking pizzas. They have not left the sector for lack of vocation but for salary improvements,” she concludes.
The report has motivated a large number of comments, including that of a user who insists that such transcendental complaints should be published on weekdays and not on a Sunday. Other comments say that this problem, extending to many state jobs, has been allowed to grow and is now entrenched as if nothing were happening, with an aggravating factor: the work is borne by the few who sacrifice and decide to go forward despite the difficulties.
“What really bothers me is that until things reach that extreme, no one says anything. It’s been going on for a while, but nothing happens; everything is fine. Let no one come and say that they are discussing the problem over breakfast,” reproaches one user.
Despite this, Cuba continues with the agreements that require it to send teachers to some countries, including Honduras, Mexico and, recently, Jamaica. Havana also has missions of this type in Africa, one of them in Equatorial Guinea, of which Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, Minister of Education until last April, was the head.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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