Some Cuban Parents Don’t Trust Government Measures and Keep Their Children Home

Many schools lack adequate water or soap for handwashing. Here children have chlorinated water poured on their hands as an alternative to handwashing. (Newspaper26)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 March 2020 — The news of a fifth positive case of Covid-19 on the Island has triggered the concern of many parents about the poor measures applied in schools.

Some have limited themselves to expressing their doubts while others have made the more drastic decision to not send their children to school, an idea that had been brewing since yesterday.

“Until it is well understood how this works, I am no longer bringing my child. I see that in many countries the first thing they have done is to close schools and here, where there is no water to wash their hands, we keep them open. Everything on a whim,” a mother who preferred not to identify herself told 14ymedio.

“Of course, I did not tell the teacher exactly the reasons, I just told her that a relative had come from abroad and we were going to go to the province for a few days. Actually I am very worried because I do not trust the measures that are being taken, so it is up to me as a mother to do something,” she added.

The list of governments that have applied total or partial school closures, in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, now reaches a hundred, although in some cases they affect the entire country and in others it is limited to specific areas, according to the figures updated as of March 16 from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, head of the Ministry of Education, said last week that schools had never been closed in Cuba, despite the numerous epidemics that have occurred on the Island. A week later, she maintains that decision. “The coronavirus has already entered Cuba, now we must prevent it from spreading, reaching our schools. We, in the most critical epidemiological conditions we have had — H1N1, cholera — have never had to shut down the school year,” she insisted.

Many Cuban parents are informed, through the news that is published even in media related to the Government, such as Telesur, of the strict measures that are being taken in countries as different as Italy, China, Spain and Russia, and in some US states. That is why they fear that the Cuban authorities are not being cautious enough to stop the contagion.

“There is no water here, much less soap, which is the basic thing to maintain hygiene. The teacher waits for you every morning with a little bit of chlorinated water to put on each person’s hands. Those are the measures that have been taken until now. They have not suspended morning assemblies or after-school activities either. What is the point of canceling sporting and cultural events if the schools are kept open. The feeling I have is that there is no awareness that the danger is in contagion and the spreading of the disease more than the disease itself,” said another worried mother this Monday as she was picking up her preschool daughter.

“Since last Friday, my oldest son’s math teacher has not been to classes because she had a high fever and discomfort since Thursday and the director decided that it was best that she stay at home. Or rather, in the hostel, because she is one of the teachers they have brought from the province,” she added.

The Facebook wall of Cuban artist Reynier Chino Leyva Novo had a blue sign this morning that said: “My kids aren’t going to school anymore until further notice!”

As explained by the minister, epidemiological surveillance is carried out to isolate or prohibit entry into schools to people who have symptoms of acute respiratory infections. Students with fever are also isolated, while their family and health clinic are notified.

Officials from the Ministry of Education have given instructions on cleaning classrooms and smooth surfaces such as tables, doors and handrails.

“The ministry has tried to create the conditions in as many institutions as possible so that there is permanent water somewhere where hand washing can take place,” Mary Carmen Rojas Torres, head of the School Health Department, told the official press.

An online petition has more than a hundred signatures from people demanding that the authorities put into practice “optimal national health security measures to lessen the negative effects of this pandemic.” The signatories request, among other things, the closure of borders and schools, that they be allowed to work from home and that citizens have “timely and true information.”


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