November 26 2015
Thanks to the ‘Yo, sí puedo’ (Yes, I can) literacy program, more than nine million people, primarily in Africa and Latin America, have learned to read and write
Over nine million people have learned to read and write with ‘Yes, I can.’ Photo: Ricardo López Hevia
Over 1,000 Cuban collaborators offer technical assistance in the sphere of education in more than 18 countries.
Thanks to the ‘Yo, sí puedo’ (Yes, I can) literacy program, more than nine million people, primarily in Africa and Latin America, have learned to read and write, while another million have completed the ‘Yo sí puedo seguir’ (Yes, I can continue) post-literacy initiative.
The country has also developed a goods and services export strategy linked to the education sector, which features among its various projects, comprehensive early childhood education, special education training, and student learning assessments.
Experts from the Ministry of Education’s (Mined) Collaboration department spoke with Granma International about the services they export.
What opportunities exist to increase the number of countries where the Cuban literacy and post-literacy programs are offered?
– Dr. Moraima Orozco Delgado (MO), director of International Relations: In regards to literacy we don’t currently have any (requests), but we do for technical assistance. For example, at present, Technical Vocational (TVE), Special and Early Childhood Education are the areas which are experiencing the greatest development.
We will potentially be undertaking collaborative TVE efforts in Namibia, South Africa, the Congo and Angola in the coming months.
What is the Ministry of Education’s strategy in regards to ensuring teaching coverage in the country and educational collaboration in other nations?
– MO: That’s an interesting question which is related to Mined’s collaboration selection procedure. We focus on the fact that the availability of teachers is different in every province, a situation we take into account during the selection process, without denying professionals from the capital or province of Matanzas – where the main difficulties lie – the chance to participate in a collaboration program.
We give those professionals the opportunity to participate, but we choose the largest number of educators from provinces with a better teaching coverage situation. When selecting we always look for excellent professionals with experience, while remaining conscious of the limitations this could produce for teacher coverage in the country’s municipalities and provinces. What we do is try to find a balance between national needs and cooperation efforts with other countries.
Many Haitians have learned to read and write through the Cuban literacy program. Photo: Amelia Duarte de la Rosa.
– Mijail Benavides Lezcaide (MB), head of the Collaboration department: It’s also linked to the education level in question. It could be that we have a situation at the high school or elementary level but the request isn’t focused on any of these levels. It might simply be a request for technical assistance to design a course curriculum at a teaching university, which would have no impact at the classroom level. There are very few countries in which our professionals actually teach classes. Our collaborative efforts are primarily focused on providing assistance in designing curriculum; which means that these efforts don’t really affect teaching coverage on the island.
Has any graduate of the ‘Yes, I can’ or ‘Yes I can continue’ programs gone on to study at a high school level here or in their country?
– MB: That depends on the priorities the beneficiary government may have. How that student progresses depends on their social context. In general these are alternative programs which feature in the adult education system and benefit individuals from the most disadvantaged communities. They are offered to people over the age of 15 who can neither read nor write – and are also often a solution for school-age students who have no access to education.
In academic terms, according to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), these people are not illiterate, but rather lack access to education. Not every country provides universal elementary education. As we all know, the failure to offer primary education for all is the natural cause of illiteracy.
Is it possible to take the ‘Yes, I can continue’ program to nations where the ‘Yes, I can’ initiative has already been applied?
– MO: We are willing. It depends of the request. Governments, mayors, and decisions-makers are forever changing. Ensuring the continuation of what has been achieved depends on their political will.
– MB: There are also the social priorities. There are countries where literacy isn’t a priority on their educational agendas. It depends on the request. You also have to bear in mind that it’s not the only literacy program. It’s an alternative which aims to, in a short period of time, bring someone who has recently learn to read an write up to a basic elementary level.
How have these collaborative missions benefited Cuba?
– MO: We learn about the different contexts in which we work. In general, all the programs have been undertaken in extremely difficult areas. They haven’t taken place in super developed cities. Our collaborators have had to adapt in order to create an effective work environment under a tree with just a blackboard, with the ‘Yes, I can’ workbooks, or in a church.
We have learned to assess and appreciate what we possess as professionals. I believe that participating in a collaborative mission is a great opportunity for Cuban teachers, given the potential for their professional development – improving their day to day practices – as well as the personal.
I believe the benefit lies in these two aspects: personal and professional growth, because the conditions in which collaborators work are far from ideal. From a personal point of view, learning about a new culture and dealing with different systems often makes you appreciate what you have. This effort carries with it the sacrifice, determination and willingness which characterize Cuban educators.
Source: A great effort by Cuban teachers