Reaping the Whirlwind / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Today, while I publish this text, thousands of students from Havana are sitting in front of their Mathematics exam. The schedule for admission to the University has had to incorporate a new test date for this subject, after a scandalous case of fraud. The leaking and selling of the questions ended with the cancellation of the previous test results, three teachers arrested, and an unknown number of students investigated.

Although fraudulent practices are common in Cuban schools, this case has provoked a profound reflection in our society, including in the official press. We have seen on our small screens dozens of interviews with people who repudiate cheating by copying another, and the lie of procured knowledge you don’t have. Few, if any, reflect on the environment of hypocrisies, double standards and simulations in which these teenager, now between sixteen and seventeen, have come of age.

This batch of students has been educated under educational experiments such as the so-called “emerging teachers.” Is it a greater fraud to put someone at the front of a classroom and call them a teacher when they possess neither the ethical values nor the knowledge to exercise such a worthy profession? How can we ask them to be honest, if the TV screen from which they receive their tele-classes never managed to transmit adequate moral codes? It is these kids, at this very minute seated in front of the math test, the children of my generation, who are surrounded by artificial academic results and inflated credentials.

It is worth remembering that for decades the schools and teachers whose classes failed to achieve grades of ninety or almost one hundred, were scolded, stripped of their credentials, and even administratively and materially penalized. Those were the days when from the dais Fidel Castro read the academic results of the high schools with their elevated promotion rate, knowing–in his heart–that this was a huge lie created for him.

It turns out that the teachers often dictate the exam questions in advance, walking among the desks of those who take longer, to whisper the answers to them or, simply, leave the room so the students are left alone to copy the answers from each other. Those of us who studied hard were always frustrated by the complicity of so many teachers and education experts with the practice of academic fraud. We are the parents of this generation that is today being evaluated in Havana’s classrooms. How could they have turned out differently? How can we ask them not to do what they have seen done?

Yoani Sánchez, Havana | 26 May 2014 | 14ymedio