Why is education in Cuba no longer what it was?

The success of the film Conducta, by director Ernesto Daranas, has placed at the center of all eyes a humble worker, sacrificed and not sufficiently recognized in Cuba: the teacher.

Carmela, one of the protagonists of the film, is a teacher of primary education, who has to deal every day with students with dissimilar conflicts, in a problematic neighborhood.

Almost all the spectators expressed their solidarity with the teacher, who against all odds defends the educational work she does every day in her classroom, in an exemplary exercise of dedication, dedication and commitment.

But in Cuba, right now, there are many Carmelas.

Throughout the country, thousands of teachers go to the schools every day to take on one of the most complex and vital tasks of society: preparing children and young people.

In Cuba, all children go to school, wherever they live, regardless of the economic situation of their families.

The primary educational coverage is absolute. Secondary education is also widespread: the vast majority of children who complete primary school continue studies.

International organizations, particularly the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization (Unesco), have recognized Cuba’s achievements in the sector.

Cuba was the first country in Latin America to declare itself free of illiteracy, school achievement rates are among the highest in the continent.

There is a perfectly consolidated system of specialized education: schools for children with difficulties and specific demands, schools of art and sports, trade schools …

Access is free at all levels, compulsory until secondary.

At the base of this framework is the teacher, the main guarantee of the educational process.

But the economic crisis of recent years has impacted significantly on the Cuban education system. It is clear: the level is not that of 25 years ago.

Although the state devotes a large part of the national budget to education, it seems insufficient.

The teachers, who are largely professional graduates in pedagogical universities, are poorly paid.

The result is obvious: the competence of some of them is doubtful, the job is not always supported by the vocation and capacity.

There are not many excellent students in the pre-university who assume pedagogical careers.

For teachers, they usually study students who, because of their grades in entrance exams to higher education, could not access other careers.

The exodus of education professionals to other branches with better salaries is a hitting reality, but perfectly understandable.

In my house I have an example: my brother was a history teacher in a high school; Now he works in a construction company for tourism. He earns almost three times what he received when he was in the classroom.

We need more commitment from our teachers, but it is difficult to demand that commitment if salaries are low.

In addition, unlike other professionals, teachers and teachers can hardly access the moonlighting, because they have to stay all day in their jobs.

Even so, in schools there are also excellent professionals, many of them with many years of experience, convinced of the great importance of their work.

My mother, who is now retired, was a primary teacher for almost forty years. She was a good teacher, recognized by students and parents. Many men and women, facts and rights, stop her in the street and thank her for the lessons she offered in her classes.

But many children are not lucky enough to have good teachers and their parents go to an emerging figure: the repasador, almost always retired teachers who charge for their private classes, in their homes, after school hours.

The nation owes a huge debt to its teachers and it is a generalized opinion: we must find effective ways to pay it off.

Doctors, nurses and all public health personnel have benefited from an increase in salaries, which although it is not up to the needs of the sector, is an incentive.

The teachers wait for a salary reform, which is more complex. Keep in mind that the greatest income to the national budget comes precisely from the Cuban medical collaboration abroad.

Education, necessarily, will continue to be subsidized. Apparently, it is not an activity that inputs resources.

But only apparently. Actually school is at the beginning of everything. Without a comprehensive education, forceful, it is impossible to have good professionals and technicians.

Cuba now has a high-level workforce, undoubted potential for future efforts. We have to thank, in great measure, the legions of teachers of primary and secondary schools.

And there is also another dimension, not less important: the formation of values. Although the family has the greatest responsibility, the teacher is – it must be – an indispensable actor in this process.

We are witnessing too many manifestations of loss of values, which have nothing to do with the project of the country we have dreamed of.

More recognition to the teacher, moral and material. I hope that in all the classrooms there would be teachers like Carmela, the protagonist of Conducta. Cuba needs it.