With a Deficit of 700 Teachers and a Shortage of Uniforms, the Cuban School Year Will Begin in Las Tunas

The authorities recognize that in Las Tunas alone, 700 teachers will be needed for the 2023-2024 school year. (Periódico  26)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 August 2023 — Two weeks before the start of the school year, the official press warned that the teacher deficit will once again be one of the main problems of the period 2023-2024. In Las Tunas alone, a deficit of 700 teachers is estimated, according to an article published in Periódico 26.

Since the Ministry of Education announced that the school year will begin on September 4, the official press is filled daily with articles about the preparations in the educational centers to receive the students. However, the texts avoid enthusiasm and say that there will be fewer teachers in addition to delays in the delivery of uniforms and school supplies.

Periódico 26 played down the deficit in Las Tunas, claiming that it is only 4.6% of the province’s teaching coverage, although the figure is glaring, considering that Las Tunas is the seventh least populated province in Cuba. Nilser Piñeda Cruz, provincial director of Education, explained that to make up for the “lack of professionals” students or production and service specialists have been hired, an increasingly common practice in schools in the face of the shortage of personnel.

For several years, Cuba has suffered a brain drain, especially from health and education professionals, caused by low wages, the poor conditions of schools and the rigors of the profession, not to mention the structural crisis that the Island is going through.

Piñeda acknowledged that the start of the school year will not be “exempt from difficulties,” but work is being done to “minimize” them. He assured that priority was given to the printing of textbooks and workbooks for early childhood and up to second grade levels. The rest will be distributed according to their availability.

For its part, in Santiago de Cuba the “teaching staff” is complete,” says an article in the newspaper Sierra Maestra published last Saturday. Alfredo Torres Creach, provincial director of Education, explained that, however, there will be delays in the delivery of uniforms, whose distribution has already begun for preschoolers and students up to fifth grade. “For the rest of the classes, the sale has not begun, because it is dependent on the delivery made by the industry to our organization,” he said.

He also acknowledged that there will be problems with the supply of workbooks for preschool and first grade students, but “teachers are prepared to provide alternatives with other materials,” although he did not specify what they will consist of. The director indicated that parents have had to help repair the damaged school furniture, but there are still deficiencies in several centers, such as broken ceilings or walls in poor condition, which will continue to be pending due to the lack of budget.

Ernesto Santiesteban Borrego, Las Tunas economic director of the Light Industry Business Group, told the newspaper Trabajadores that employees of the clothing workshops began to manufacture the uniforms for the new school year in June, but there were delays in the delivery of raw materials and, “to some extent,” the energy crisis also affected production.

According to the newspaper, in the workshops of Las Tunas alone there are 230 seamstresses and support staff to manufacture 192,000 uniforms for the students of Las Tunas and Matanzas. Mothers make up 99% of the workforce, and they come to work even on vacations and holidays.

To alleviate the problems with the lack of uniforms, many families appeal to emigrants. Every year in the city of Miami, the ¡Ño que barato! [Reduced Price] store, located in Hialeah, sells more than a thousand pieces of clothing for the students of the Island. The design respects every detail of the blouses, shirts, skirts and pants of all levels of education in Cuba.

Uniforms made in the United States are highly appreciated for the quality of their raw material and their durability. It is easy to detect in the classrooms which students are dressed with those of national production and which are wearing the imported ones.  Many of those imported have the Jordache label for the American company that produces them.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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