My friend Yuslemi’s pocket hasn’t recovered from the last meeting at her son’s primary school. A portion of the meeting between the parents and the teacher was dedicated to the needs of the classroom, and in particular a discussion of the share each family needed to come up with to buy a much needed fan. The issue of cleaning occupied about twenty minutes and each parent made a note of various products such as detergent, a floor mop, and a broom, they needed to bring in the coming days. With five pesos a month for each student, they could pay a lady to clean the room once a week.
The school lacks cleaning staff because the low wages don’t attract anyone. The person they illegally contract with will probably be a retiree who will have no labor protection when performing the work, no vacations, nor any sick pay. This is similar to what in Europe is called “the black economy,” which in Cuba we know as a job “on the left.”
When it seemed that the meeting was over, it was time for another kind of request list. They asked if there was a father who could repair the chairs which had been broken and a gentleman raised his hand to take on that task. Another offered to supply a padlock for the door, and a mom committed to print the math tests which would be given in late January. The school lacks a copier or printer, so the reproduction of the tests falls on some parent who works in a State enterprise where these resources are available. Everything was agreed to in an atmosphere of business-as-usual and the teacher, after finishing her reading of the list of requests, declared that the meeting had been a success.