Without Notebooks and Pencils, Cuba Prepares for the Start of the School Year in September

Cuba’s Ministry of Education announced the start of the 2023-2024 school year in September. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2023 — After three years of school closures due to a wave of covid-19 infections, the Government announced this Friday the start of the 2023-2024 school period under “normal conditions.”. The return, however, will be marked by a “difficult economic situation,” acknowledged President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has already warned that the educational system is not prepared because even pencils are missing.

The president pointed out that the school year, which will begin in September, will be the first in complete normality since the pandemic led to the closure of schools and the adoption of a teleclass system. In recent years there has been a gradual return to the classroom, under sanitary protocols to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is an extremely challenging course,” Díaz-Canel said in a meeting at the Palace of the Revolution with the educational authorities about the preparations for the school year. The difficulties for this year, according to the president, depend on the “international scenario” and the impacts that the island is still experiencing since the start of the pandemic.

Naima Ariatne Trujillo, Minister of Education, promised to have school uniforms ready for all initial grades on the eve of the start of the school year, although priority will be given to primary school children. She announced that as of October the delivery to the other school levels will be completed. In the past school year, part of the crisis was alleviated with a donation of primary materials from China, whose manufacture of the more than 2.1 million garments was limited by prolonged blackouts.

The head of Education warned that this year there will be limitations on notebooks and pencils, a situation that they will verify on the fly in a tour of “all the provinces.”

In the meeting, Díaz-Canel took the opportunity to refer to the “lessons” left by a “prolonged period of three years in complex conditions.” These experiences “enrich the pedagogical practice of the country in revolution,” he said, according to a quote from the newspaper of the Organ of the Central of Workers of Cuba.

According to that article, the official recognized that there are still “things that we have to solve” and that the new generations of students demand a new curricular approach. However, in his speech, he argued that what is really required is a “solid formative approach” with a critical mentality in the face of “the avalanche of cultural colonization that they want to impose on us in an increasingly complex world.”

Teachers, like medical personnel, are among the most scarce qualified professionals on the Island due to the flight of talent due to the increasing deterioration of the quality of life and the deep economic crisis that the Island is experiencing. Nor are school buildings available with the optimal conditions to house students, in a country where unmaintained infrastructure and constant blackouts are part of the daily agenda.

Low wages, poor school conditions and the rigors of the profession have contributed to the mass flight of teachers and teaching assistants. Many schools have tried to alleviate the impact of this reduction in qualified personnel by putting several groups together in the same classroom, in others they have hired retired teachers to return to teach.

Cuban teachers receive a salary that starts at 4,825 pesos per month (70 dollars). In order to sustain themselves in the midst of galloping inflation, teachers resort to extra tutoring, which starts at 100 pesos per session (less than a dollar and a half). But the increase in the cost of living has meant that, even with these parallel jobs, they cannot sustain themselves financially.


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