Swindle / Fernando Dámaso

Photo: Peter Deel

A reporter for an official press agency, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the literacy campaign in an article, emphasized that it was undertaken to end four and a half centuries of ignorance in the country. It appears that she, despite the campaign, remained ignorant, as evidenced by her making such an absurd and irresponsible claim.

Without underestimating the importance of the campaign, it should be noted that illiteracy was progressively eradicated in Cuba from the establishment of the Republic and even before, during the years of U.S. intervention, when a modern system of education was organized and thousands of classrooms were created.

In 1958 the overall illiteracy rate was only 18%, one of the lowest in Latin America, though in rural areas it reached as high as 46%. It’s worth noting that, different from other Latin America nations, in Cuba 75% of the population lived in cities and towns (currently the percent is much higher) and only 25% in the countryside, so that this latter percentage affected a minority, which was not entirely abandoned because there were rural schools and traveling teachers, who visited the remote homes of peasants and taught them. This rural illiteracy was also affected by the fact that many parents preferred their children to join them in farmwork and housework, instead of sending them to school or providing them with an education.

The literacy campaign, in fact, was able to eradicate in one year, with the concentration of huge resources and efforts, what could have been accomplished in five or more years with less material and human expense. This focus on a single task to complete it, regardless of cost, to the detriment of all other endeavors, seems to have been a constant of the government authorities. Examples abound.

November 7 2011