Cuba: Happy Back to School?

Cuba: Happy Back to School?

Published on 27 Sep 2023

Few beginnings of school are remembered as pitiful on the island

The school year that began on September 4 in Cuba will be the first to follow the regular calendar after the interruptions and incomplete academic years due to the pandemic. However, few beginnings of classes are remembered as painful on the island. The shortage of books, uniforms and teachers, together with the high cost of materials, worries parents and students.

Despite a start with multiple shortages and in the midst of the most severe shortages, Miguel Díaz-Canel wrote on X (former Twitter): “The happy day has arrived. Back to the classrooms, to classes, to friends, to the certainty that all efforts and sacrifices are worth it to see the future filled with light. Congratulations Cuba because, whatever it takes, all your schools are still open”.

The regime celebrates the return to school

At ProBox we monitored the digital conversation about the return to classes in Cuba on Facebook, X and Instagram, around keywords such as: “start of the Cuban school year, Cuban Ministry of Education (MINED), back to the classroom, Naima Ariadne Trujillo Barreto (Cuban Minister of Education), lack of teachers, Cuban education system,” among others to explore what was being talked about between August 11 and September 13 on the subject.

We analyzed a sample of 4,201 mentions collected through the BrandMentions tool, highlighting September 4, which concentrated 41.16% of the mentions obtained (1,729 mentions). The conversation was mainly concentrated on X (43.58% of mentions) and Facebook (40.09% of mentions), with a small portion on Instagram (16.33% of mentions).

The most repeated message responded to a campaign driven with the phrase “without education there can be no Revolution”, accompanied by hashtags such as #NuevoCursoEscolar, #CubaPorLaVida, #FidelViveEntreNosotros and #FidelPorSiempre.

This content was mainly driven by accounts coordinated among themselves inauthentically, mainly on X. However, on September 5, there were also accounts of the Cuban Medical Missions in Venezuela promoting the start of classes in Cuba.

In the conversation around the return to school, support from Cuban state institutions was predominant, highlighting not only the hashtag #NuevoCursoEscolar in 25.14% of the registered mentions, but also others linked to governmental entities such as #CubaPorLaVida, #CubaEduca and #CubaCoopera.

We applied the search at a global level, due to the fact that in many cases the geolocation of many accounts in Cuba cannot be determined. By doing this we could see that in the list of accounts identified with geolocation Venezuela stood out in second place.

A restart of classes without books

Despite the celebrations of the regime’s authorities and the Cuban official media for the beginning of the school year, the humanitarian crisis and the State’s investment priorities have resulted not only in a lack of teachers and schools in terrible conditions, but also in the fact that students cannot even count on textbooks for their individual use, according to the independent digital platform Diario de Cuba.

According to Andrei Armas Bravo, general director of Education in Sancti Spiritus, in that province the lack of textbooks forced two students to share a book to learn some subjects:

“We have designed that in some educational levels there is going to be a book for two students, with priority for students who live distant, and in that way be able to advance in the teaching-educational process,” the official told the local official newspaper Escambray, who later pointed out that “it has not been possible to ensure all the necessary notebooks that were previously guaranteed by the Ministry of Education.”

In view of this, the Cuban Minister of Education, Naima Ariatne Trujillo Barreto, appeared on the television program Mesa Redonda and acknowledged that there are not enough notebooks for students this year and that “it has not been possible to produce all the notebook titles that have been used so far in the education system”.

As a solution to this problem, Trujillo Barreto explained that “we have been printing books of the model prior to the third improvement of the education system”. That is to say, manuals with teaching methods have already been replaced by new programs.

To the classroom without teachers or uniforms

In addition to all of the above, there is a shortage of teachers, which MINED claims to have addressed by re-hiring retired teachers and sending fourth year students to the classrooms.

There are also problems with uniforms. Rosmery Mas, director of sales and merchandise of the state-owned Grupo Empresarial de Comercio, told the state-owned Agencia Cubana de Noticias that “the confection” did not “go as planned due to the lack of fabrics in the country” and that “it is necessary to adopt variants”.

This situation is not new in Cuba and there are many families who receive uniforms from the United States, especially from Florida, thanks to their emigrated relatives.

More tourism, less education

Although the situation of the education sector in Cuba makes the regime once again point out that the problem lies in the U.S. embargo, the truth is that in the first half of 2023, business and real estate services (hotel construction) accounted for 10,406 million pesos of the total of 41,616,003 million pesos invested by the State. If we add to this the amount allocated to hotels and restaurants, 2,325 million, the total dedicated to the tourism services sector is much higher.

On the other spectrum, only 583.3 million was allocated to public health and social assistance; 730.6 million to culture and sports; 777.4 million to construction; and only 559.8 million to education.

For more information on socio-political manipulation online you can follow us on all social networks as @ProBoxVE

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