Holguin Starts the School Year in the Midst of a Complex Epidemiological Situation / 14ymedio, Donate Fernando Ochoa

Preschool classroom of a primary school in Holguin. (Fernando Donate)
Preschool classroom of a primary school in Holguin. (Fernando Donate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 1 September 2015 — The beginning of the school year in Holguin has been complicated this early September by the complex epidemiological context facing the region because of the outbreaks of dengue fever and cholera. The city is experiencing a declared health emergency, but authorities say they have taken all sanitary measures in order to prevent the spread of diseases in schools.

In junior high schools the school snack has temporarily been suspended, an offering that consisted of yogurt and bread with mortadella passed out free in the schools.

For this reason, the class schedule at this level now runs from 8:00 to 10:00 in the morning, with an afternoon session from 2:00 to 5:00, according to Claribel Casamayor, an English teacher at the Panchito Gomez Toro school.

Students at Celia Sanchez University are also beginning the year atypically. The vice rector, Liuska Bao Pavon, in a special program of the Radio Angulo station, informed those students that the dormitories are not available because they are being used as a field hospital for patients suffering from dengue fever. For now, the students are attending classes on adjusted hours at other universities in the provincial capital city.

The situation becomes more complicated at the primary level, according to Ricardo Ramirez, municipal deputy director of Education for Holguin. His students, between 6 and 11 years of age, are studying at centers that are severely deteriorated due to the age of the buildings and the lack of repairs. Ramirez told the local station Telecristal that of the 252 schools in the city, 130 began classes with seriously damaged plumbing and he did not rule out that some schools would remain permanently closed for lack of optimal sanitary conditions. In those cases, the students would be relocated to other schools.

These statements have contributed to keeping people in a state of fear. Maritza Avila, mother of a seven-year-old boy, Pedro Enrique Tamayo, who started first grade at the Julio Grave de Peralta primary school, confessed that she feared for the health of her son as the school is in an advanced state of deterioration in both its construction and plumbing.

The health problems are compounded by a shortage of 1,205 teachers, 444 of them in the provincial capital city.

Yaser Quintana, a math teacher at Rafael Freyre elementary school, notes that the school year has also been affected by the fact that many children and teenagers have been admitted to hospitals for cholera and dengue fever.

The health problems are compounded by a shortage of 1,205 teachers, 444 of them in the provincial capital city. Among the measures announced by the authorities to solve this problem is the reinstatement of retired teachers, contracting with students at Oscar Lucero Moya University and with graduates of the basic course at José de la Luz y Caballero Teaching University as well as with recent graduates of the University of Information Sciences.