14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 6 September 2018 – “Here we haven’t asked for anything” was the most repeated phrase during the parents’ first meeting of the year in an elementary school in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, in Havana. The emphatic clarification, accompanied by gestures with eyes and hands that seemed to negate it, was made by the teacher after the authorities of the Ministry of Education called on their employees to not demand resources and money from parents in order to shore up the material precariousness of the classrooms.
Like every other September, the parents participated in an assembly to apportion responsibilities and conduct the necessary collections of money that allows for purchases from fans to cleaning supplies. However, unlike other years, teachers were warned by their directors that they could not participate in the appeals for, or in the organization of this aid. “You already know that I cannot be here when you collect money, so act like I don’t know about it,” the teacher warned.
For decades, and in view of the deterioration that public education has suffered on the island, it has become common practice for families to finance part of the resources used collectively in the classroom. These contributions are not only used to buy brooms or trash cans, but also to pay people who clean the classrooms “under the table”. Some of the money can also end up in the hands of the teachers to “stimulate” them to continue with their work despite the low salaries.
Faced with constant criticisms and denunciations motivated by this situation, the Ministry of Education decided to cut it off, but not by prohibiting the parental aid, but by appealing to the ostrich technique. “As I do not know, then it is not my responsibility,” opined the overwhelmed educator in front of those who calculated the amount of money that each household would have to give. “That is your thing and I cannot get involved,” the teacher repeated, but everyone understood that it was a formality to save her from liability.
“She knows that without this money it would be very difficult to keep a functioning classroom, but instead of giving her more resources now the Ministry tells her to look the other way,” criticized a grandmother. “This support will now be more clandestine, but it will continue,” said the lady who was already preparing to hand over about 10 CUC (convertible peso) in the coming weeks.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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