Education, the “hen of the golden eggs” of Cuba

Teaching reaches every corner of the country, even in areas of difficult access. However, it still has a great challenge to the sector: solve the shortage of teachers and teachers.

Last week the classes began with 1,750,000 Cubans who attend more than 10 thousand educational institutions. Only in the universities the enrollment was almost a quarter of a million young people, 28 thousand more than in the previous year. More than half a century has passed since the newly installed revolutionary government launched the national campaign that alphabetized all Cubans. Education today reaches every corner of the country, even in areas of difficult access such as the mountains of the east, where this year 261 schools will operate, some of them with only half a dozen students.

Since the 60s primary education became free and compulsory, with 100% attendance. In Cuba, going to school is a right of the child that even his parents can not violate. Nor are there many excuses because in primary, secondary and higher education you do not pay a penny of tuition and even borrow the necessary books . The university students of the field also count on the “scholarships”, buildings-dormitories pertaining to the universities where they lodge without cost some.

Higher education has already graduated around 1.2 million professionals, of whom about 80,000 are doctors. Such number of university graduates has caused certain social anomalies, first the impossibility of the poor Cuban economy being able to absorb the bulk of that qualified force. On the other hand, many trades have been lost and trained manpower is lacking . However, despite everything it has been a good investment, at present the main foreign currency income of the country comes from the work of its professionals in providing services abroad.

But not everything is the color of roses in Cuban education, the shortage of teachers and professors has become a real challenge for the authorities of the sector. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, over the past 8 years more than 20,000 educators have left the classroom, some emigrating and others relocating to other activities, all in search of a better income. The Minister of Education, Ena Elsa Velázquez, informed that the deficit would be covered with the hiring of 17 thousand retirees and with the incorporation of 1000 pedagogy students . The subjects that have more lack are the Natural Sciences, Mathematics, History and English.

After the desertion of teachers there is the salary problem and the enormous responsibility and exigency that weighs on them. The average income is well below the national average and they require a huge level of dedication, in addition to teaching the classes, they must prepare them methodologically and pass self-improvement courses. The opening of self-employment has led thousands of teachers to migrate to less sacrificial and better paid jobs, such as tourism guides, where they can earn in one day what a teacher receives in a month.

The wage problem is general among state workers but in the case of educators it is against one of the greatest achievements of the Revolution and also against the national economy given that 75% of foreign exchange earnings come from the work of its professionals abroad. In addition to health personnel in 60 countries, there are engineers in Algeria, university professors in sub-Saharan Africa, teachers in the Caribbean and sports coaches all over the world. Its scientists develop novel vaccines against lung cancer or hepatitis and drugs that prevent amputations to diabetics.

The Cuban Revolution hardly developed industries, its commitment from the beginning was towards professional training. Today it has a huge reserve of university graduates, masters and doctors who are the ones who sustain the national economy . However, this quarry is not infinite, it needs to be reproduced and to achieve it, it is essential to keep the educational system in place, something that in the long run will be impossible if the teacher’s desertion continues. Improving their wages and living conditions seems the only way not to kill “the goose that lays the golden eggs”.