Schools and Schools


Cuban children at morning assembly reciting, "Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che" REUTERS/Desmond Boylan. (Image:

Last week I ran into an Italian friend on the street who has lived in Cuba for a decade. It occurred to me to ask after his children, two teenagers born in Milan but now growing up in Havana. “Here I have them in a French school,” he confirmed, smiling. At first I did not understand why he had chosen this Francophone education, but he clarified for me.  “What do you want, that I send them to a public school? With the terrible education here!” Inquiring, I learned that they share the classroom with the children of diplomats, foreign correspondents, and figures of our culture who have married an immigrant. For an annual fee of 5,550 CUC ($5,800 USD), both offspring of the rotund Italian are well cared for and educated.

The first impression of that encounter was that my friend was exaggerating, but I immediately reviewed my own experience as the mother of a student. I visualized the number of floor mops, bags of detergent, and brooms we had donated to make sure the hallways and bathrooms of the school were at least presentable. Also on this list was a lock for the classroom door we replaced on several occasions and a fan all the parents bought because the suffocating heat made it hard for the children to pay attention. Nor did I forget the infinite number of times that the exams were printed in our house because the school had no paper, no ink, no working printer. The snack that we gave to the teacher so many days, because the food in the dining room was simply unpresentable. I recalled the folios, tubes of glue, the tempura and colored paper that we also provided for the mural that would hang on the wall with an image of a magnanimous and smiling Fidel Castro.

I didn’t stop with just the high material cost of those school years, but continued connecting memories. I recapitulated those times when they implemented the so-called tele-classes, that filled over 60% of the teaching hours with television. The great teachers who decided to return home to paint nails, sell coffee, or relocate to the tourism sector, because the combination of high responsibility and low wages was unbearable. And I even took a minute to count all the primary and secondary teachers who had left their jobs. I enumerated, one by one, all the atrocities voiced to so many adolescents by the “emerging teachers” (they should have been called “instant teachers”): from the reason that the Cuban flag has a five-pointed start is because there are five Interior Ministry agents confined in U.S. prisons, or that New Zealand is in the Caribbean Sea. I also reconstructed the afternoon that a teacher announced in front of our son, that very nearby there was an act of repudiation underway against “dangerous counterrevolutionaries” and little Teo got a lump in his throat, since he knew that his mother and father were among the victims of the harassment. The teachers’ assistants with their tight clothes and their navels hanging out paraded in front of my eyes, or a teacher with a gold tooth and an eagle on his shirt criticizing the students’ long hair and not letting them into the classroom.

My evocative waterfall that afternoon didn’t lack the slogans repeated to the point of exhaustion, the endless and monotonous morning assemblies, the cult of personality of some men who appear in history books as saviors and in science books as scientists. At the end of my reflection, all this helped me to understand why my Italian friend prefers the “little French school” of Havana. But I also know that his children will grow up with a very different idea of what education is on this Island. They will believe that the bright and well equipped places where they receive each assignment, a balanced lunch, a caring teacher, and quality school materials, are characteristics inherent in our education system. I can’t rule out that some day — on returning to Europe — they will participate in some street protests so that their public education will look like ours, so that their children can enjoy what they “knew” in Cuba.


463 thoughts on “Schools and Schools

  1. Yoani Sanchez is the best thing that has ever happened for the CUBAN PEOPLE. Enough of the Castro’s propaganda machine. The Cuban people are hungry, want free press, want to be able to travel and fed up with the repressive Regime. The people of Cuba want CAMBIO and plenty have been sentenced to lengthy jail term because this. The Vatican has witness the most recent case, his name is Andres Carrion Alvarez. He today is in jail because he expressed himself. I now hope the Vatican can put some pressure on the Castro brothers to free this man.

  2. Just more of Yoani’s propaganda. She has a similar piece in the so called book that was edited by a person that does not speak Spanish, and thinks Batista was savaged by the media. Yoani is an agent of the United States; check out her Pay Pal account: no Cuban anywhere in the world can have a Pay Pal account unless they reside in the U.S. Brisa Williams, a U.S. Assistant of State got Yoani a credit card and Pay Pal account and enrolled her as an American agent. You cannot believe anything Yoani says; she simply lies about everything to satisfy the U.S. The former Chief of Station of the American Interest Section says he hoped that the many conservations he had with Yoani would not be reported. The reason is obvious: he was giving her instructions about what to say against Cuba. She is a total fraud that solicits money under false pretensions. She is an ego driven agent of the U.S. and should be in jail.


  4. 448Cuba Libre

    Abril 9th, 2012 at 15:17
    Another interesting video about available free scholarships for Americans, and commentaries from some of the students.

    Many people of different countries study in Brazil, Colombia and Chile……. many more in USA…… but no one of those countries govs have to make propaganda about those facts just because those govs are not looking for to lure people to think they are the paradise…… castrofascism has to spread such ridiculous propaganda videos in order to give its propaganda agents something to be used to cover the crimes of the regimen, something to cover the destruction of the country, something to cover the repression …… reality is that those students’ studies are paid by their govs to castrofascism….. so there is nothing free even in paradise…..but sometimes the receptors of this “benefits” gets small problems while studding in “paradise”:

    or get problems after studing in paradise

  5. Cuba Libre
    Abril 9th, 2012 at 14:28
    You lost your occasion to speak your mind on Cuban issues the day you decided to flea the island paradise. Maybe you do send money to the family you left behind there, but not every Cuban living in Cuba has a gusano relative in the USA that sends them money. On the contrary, most Cubans don`t, and they rely on the revolutionary government to get along.
    So, Cuba is like one big welfare state, where one must depend of the “government”, like a baby, to make it in life? No incentive to do anything there.
    Freud, being from Cuba, has more of a right, not less, to speak on Cuba issues. He didn’t give up that right because he left the country. He obviously lives in a place that allows free speech, unlike Cuba.
    Cuba Libre, you do realize that “gusano” is a derogatory term, no? Are you saying that all Cubans who flee the island prison in order to have a better life are worms? I’d call them smart. And I thought you had given up the personal insults. That really lasted, LOL.

  6. 433Cuba Libre

    Abril 9th, 2012 at 14:28
    You lost your occasion to speak your mind on Cuban issues the day you decided to flea the island paradise

    Do you believe me as cowardice as you????……I paid my quote of isolation jail and repression because I spoke my mind loudly while living in Cuba…… I know your provocative statement about this issue has as hiden goal to get more information about my person but you never will get more than I already gave out. Tell your bosses to change the scheme….. it is too old.
    Just because majority of cubans have no a “worm” (maybe a “poor” worm) abroad to help them not to die of hunger is because we want to change this criminal regime that makes the people depend of the empire….. just because castrofascism has transformed Cuba into a country totally dependable of USA we want this stupid regime to disappear….. never in Cuba’s history a regime delivered so much sovereignty to USA….. and we will finish this situation and traitors like you will be only a bad memory written in a National monument so the future generations never forget the name of those that contributed to Cuba’s defeat in front USA….. you can be sure!!!!!


    Video: Cuban Doctors Defection Comes at a Price – The Wall Street Journal’s Joel Millman reports on Cuba’s program of sending doctors abroad as missionaries—and the
    The video tells the story of one Cuban doctor working in Gambia who took nine months to escape and now lives in Florida. His wife and child are still in Cuba and she lost her job at a hospital as a result of being blacklisted for five years because of his defection. Another downside is that, without their medical records and certifications (held by the Cuban government), Cuban doctors in the United States can only work as nurses or surgical assistants.

    And even though Cuba lets 20,000 people emigrate annually, doctors rarely get permission to leave. Still, almost 1,600 doctors have defected since 2006 as a result of:

    Cuba has been sending medical “brigades” to foreign countries since 1973, helping it to win friends abroad, to back “revolutionary” regimes in places like Ethiopia, Angola, and Nicaragua, and perhaps most importantly, to earn hard currency. Communist Party newspaper Granma reported in June that Cuba had 37,041 doctors and other health workers in 77 countries. Estimates of what Cuba earns from its medical teams—revenue that Cuba’s central bank counts as “exports of services”—vary widely, running to as much as $8 billion a year. Many Cubans complain that the brigades have undermined Cuba’s ability to maintain a high standard of health care at home


    HAVANA TIMES: The (Non) Right of Cubans to Travel- February 1, 2010

    Other categories of technicians exist —for doctors, for example— who cannot leave through this channel. Likewise, there is a category for people considered “politically adverse,” for which the obstacles to exit are numerous. The most dramatic case of denying the right to travel was that of Hilda Molina. By then an elderly scientist, she had previously broken with the official party machine —to which she had once passionately adhered— and therefore her reunion with all of her family living in Argentina was denied for years, until the Cuban government finally conceded to a petition by Buenos Aires. What is particularly negative is that people who want to travel temporarily cannot take their children (those below legal age). This is only possible when the person decides to emigrate “definitively.”

  9. Some of those American medical students in Havana should be given a tour of the torture and starvation wards at Mazorra hospital.

    But somehow I think they’re not interested in what Cuba is like.

  10. Cuba Libre, please show videos of nice schools in Haiti and Honduras while you’re at it, they do exist. Your links are ridiculous and I never bother clicking on them as I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen rich people around the world and could show you palaces in Bangladesh.

    But did you know that not everyone in Haiti and Bangladesh is rich?

    Likewise, not all Cubans live in a Potemkin village or go to school with the Castro family.

    Look at the big picture.

  11. Humberto,
    Here is a video of one of your fellow Californians who is getting free med-school education along with hundreds of other Americans, and thousands of other foreigners. Its called “Medical diplomacy”. All this offered by the Cuban government to people who can`t afford medical studies, and all this free of charge. please take a few minutes to view it.

  12. Another interesting video about available free scholarships for Americans, and commentaries from some of the students.

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