Frozen Salaries for Cuba’s Teachers
September 12, 2016
Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities and media have officially announced
that pay hikes in the educational sector, which were expected in the
second semester of 2016, will not be put into effect. The country
doesn’t have the necessary economic conditions right now, they’ve said.
In the last few weeks leading up to the start of this academic year, the
media has reflected upon Minister of Education Ena E.Velazquez’s tour
around the country. With the normal fanfare, they extolled the
marvellous conditions that students would have when they go back to
class in September. One fact was known, a half-truth hidden amongst the
smallprint. Practically every region had deficits in educational staff,
to a small or large extent.
Our education sector is one of the emblematic symbols of the Cuban
socialist system. Its inevitable decline contributes to the erosion of
the government’s prestige and acceptance. This problem has dragged on
from the end of the last century, when the fall in state salaries threw
teachers to the bottom of this country’s socio-labor pyramid. For over
twenty years now, there hasn’t been a light at the end of the tunnel for
a sector which, paradoxically, everyone considers to be crucial.
Cuba’s economy, third world in nature and underdeveloped, was deprived
back then due to the loss of the massive subsidies that the Socialist
bloc used to give them. Since then, it’s never really got out of this
rut, as slight relief is always followed by new times of recession.
Under such circumstances, Cuba hasn’t been able to recover the ability
to reestablish an expensive and large social service, such as education.
The exodus of so many grade school teachers and professors to more
lucrative jobs has become a chronic disease in our country. It’s hard to
reproach these people. Their dedicated work only gives them a meager
salary, which makes it practically impossible for them to maintain a
decent quality of life. Within this scope, there has also been an
increase in government politics of cutbacks in social expenditures,
subsidies and a whole range of other target incentives which were given
to those who worked in education. Appeals to the educators for conscious
sacrifice and promises of improvements in the future were plentiful,
tributes and medals were encouraged, however, these don’t let you keep a
household up and running, to look after children or the elderly, etc.
In the last few months, the promise of a pay hike for teachers had even
been insinuated. This had already happened in the health sector,
something worthy of discussion at another moment. . In government
speeches, the slogan of “socialism with prosperous and sustainable
development” became permanent. Growth levels were estimated to be a high
percentage of our GDP. A development plan up until 2030 was made public
– and it would also be worth our while to go back to this.
The thawing process of reestablishing relations with the US seemed to
justify greater hopes for prosperity. And suddenly, a bucket of cold
water was thrown over us, with the announcement of the impossibility of
maintaining economic growth this year. This crisis was acknowledged at
the summer session of the National Assembly of the People’s Power. Since
then, the increase in salaries for Education workers could well have
been forgotten, even though it took them several weeks to confirm this.
However, what was indeed implemented was the outreach of taxes on
incomes from a wider segment of the labor sector, exempting only those
who receive less than 500 Cuban pesos – about 20 USD.
This phenomenon has triggered serious reflections. Once again, the hopes
of Cuban citizens on the whole, and especially those of teachers, have
been let down. The fatalism that exists joins another cold and
unpleasant truth. If schools were already running short of teachers
beforehand, just imagine what’s going to happen now. And if this proves
difficult, look at other news, also announced under their breath, about
the very poor demand there is for education degrees throughout the
country – in spite of the fact that the government practically hands
them out at corresponding universities.
Now it’s time to add another few unsettling aspects to this problem.
It’s a well known fact that, under the license of private tutor, the
business of private teachers is becoming more widespread. What kind of
impact will this sector have on education?
It’s obvious that the phenomenon of social differentiation is becoming
more reinforced due to the decline in public education and the boom in
private education centers. The latter offer a great range of services.
Many of them are made up of a single teacher who works at home, who
teaches a few students at a time, in one or two subjects at a more or
less specific school grade. Others are real groups, organized
systematically and with sophistication, which are made up of various
people who work as private tutors; they teach dozens of teenagers all
kinds of subjects; from different grades, in specially designed centers.
There are centers to cover every level of local academic teaching, from
preschool education up until university.
Children from well-off enough families go to these private education
centers, after the school day at the state’s depressing schools. With
these private classes, they receive such a complete education that the
only thing they’re missing is the power to hand out officially valid
titles, which children still have to go to official schools and sit the
necessary exams in order to get them. In my opinion, this explains a
little bit about why the (public) education system remains in the
precarious condition it’s in now. The elite already have their
offspring’s education guaranteed, and therefore they don’t put a lot of
pressure on the government to fix a problem that barely affects them.
Over the years, social inequality has become naturalized on our streets.
The “poorletariate” have to go to state school (with no outside
assistance), and are left to fight for their own. Those who have better
economic means, who are already above the rest of us because of their
higher quality of life, financial standing, housing, etc, will also now
stand out more and more for their better education and training. This
will inevitably translate into there being less opportunities for “the
plebs” to get hold of, to access professional environments with
excellent opportunities. For those “below”, the paths to excel have
become narrower, unless they get involved in some shady business or
stand out as an artist or athlete to entertain the masses.
Quite simply, the state bureaucratic system today has proven itself
unable to fix the problem they have with the public education sector.
It’s been over twenty years of them doing the same thing, and every
trace of hope disappears with new and sadder setbacks. We need a dynamic
society, with all of the potential of its flourishing productive forces,
free from ties, so that radical changes in this situation can come about.
Meanwhile, our education system urgently needs effective labor-union
cohesion, with legitimate and committed union representatives, who are
able to directly engage with the rest of the country’s social and
This is the only way that a consensus will be able to be reached about
the boost in necessary resources in order to maintain a universal,
high-quality education system that promotes achievement for all, with
social inclusion and justice, and quality of life for its educators, to
the level of dignity that their job entails.
Source: Frozen Salaries for Cuba’s Teachers – Havana Times.org –