Damage caused by the U.S. blockade to education in Cuba

Source:  Granma
September 28 2016

by Yenia Silva Correa | informacion@granma.cu

“If the United States were willing to sell the materials and supplies we need to successfully develop our education system, Cuba would save $1,245,000 USD on shipping fees alone.


The US blockade prevents Cuba from obtaining state-of-the art applications and IT resources.  Photo:  Jose M. Correa

The efforts and political will of the Cuban state to continue to provide free and universal education to the people are laudable, above all given the limitations it faces as a result of the economic, commercial and financial blockade unilaterally imposed by the United States on the island for over five decades.

The aggressiveness of this policy markedly increased from April, 2015 through March, 2106; affecting in particular the export of educational services from Cuba to other countries, according to Dr. Paul Torres Fernández Ministry of Education (Mined) spokesman, during a recent press conference.

Dr. Torres highlighted losses associated with having to operate in distant markets, one of the areas where the negative impact of the blockade is most evident, with higher shipping fees raising costs for the island.

Citing an example he noted that transporting a 20 foot container from China costs Cuba approximately 3,200 U.S. dollars. However, the same operation from the U.S. would cost the island only 1,300 dollars.

“If the United States were willing to sell the materials and supplies we need to successfully develop our education system, Cuba would save $1,245,000 USD on shipping fees alone,” stated Torres.

Modern laboratories and audio-visual equipment

The blockade causes substantial damage to the sphere of educational services. For example, language schools work on the basis of the National System of Information for Education and Mined Central Archive, but lack modern laboratories and audio-visual equipment.

In order to highlight the extraterritorial nature of U.S. economic sanctions, Torres reported that a notable decrease in purchases, exchanges, and donations of texts, scientific papers and educational documents has been seen, given restrictions on publishing houses and institutions in third countries.

Use of the US dollar

“Despite remarks made by U.S. President Barack Obama, stating that Cuba can now use the dollar in international transactions, this continues to be an unresolved problem, directly impacting exchanges and purchases,” highlighted the Mined spokesman.

Another negative effect of the stifling economic policy toward the island is the reduction of publishing plans for school libraries and educational information centers.

“We can barely produce workbooks. The entire bibliography that has been published in previous years in regards to postgraduate and scientific education, of vital importance to the continued development of our teachers, has been severely inhibited,” noted Dr. Torres.

Technical-Vocational Education

The impact of the blockade has been acutely felt in Technical-Vocational Education from April 2015, through March 2016, especially given the need to renew and repair tools and machines.

The specialist noted that institutions offering Mechanics courses have been unable to replace out-dated equipment given the lack of sufficient resources to purchase them.

A similar situation is affecting students enrolled in Chemistry, the Sugar Cane Industry, and Food Industry courses, who are prevented from developing their skills to the full, due to insufficient equipment and devices.

Biology and chemistry laboratories

In regards to difficulties associated with purchasing laboratory units for Technical Education, the Mined spokesman stated, “The country has made extraordinary efforts to buy biology and chemistry laboratories. We have covered an important number of pre-universities in the country. However, we have not been able to reach all high-schools. If we take an overall look at high-school education, we have barley met a third of laboratory requirements.”

The U.S. government’s aggressive economic policy toward Cuba also negatively impacts Special Education, although the country serves all children and adolescents with special learning needs.

The financial sphere

The blockade also causes damages in the financial sphere. Payments relating to international collaboration agreements signed with Cuban educational institutions must be made in euros or Canadian dollars, causing further losses due to the currency conversion process.

In regards to technology, the limitations are notable. During the last decade, Cuba’s educational policy has focused on the use of Information and Communication Technologies. However, this process has been stunted due to the blockade, above all given restrictions on obtaining computing tools and Internet band-width available to the island.

All these figures demonstrate the tangible and considerable limitations faced by the Cuban education system as a consequence of the U.S. blockade. Despite this, Cuba continues to undertake numerous efforts and make substantial investments in order to continue being an example in the sphere of education.

One thought on “Damage caused by the U.S. blockade to education in Cuba

  1. The criminal economic,commercial and financial embargo imposed by the US government against the Cuban people and their revolution for over 50 years is not only negatively affecting its educational capacity but it is also negatively affecting the whole economy and society.

    In this regard, there are perhaps four key points that should be made about the embargo’s impact on the education sector in Cuba.

    Firstly, as is correctly stated in the article, in the absence of the US embargo, the Cuban people would be able to save huge foreign exchange and other resources in excess of $1 million by buying directly from the US the educational supplies such as textbooks, computers, laboratory materials and equipment for chemistry, physics and other sciences that are indispensable for teaching and learning.

    Unfortunately, because the US imperialists persist in maintaining the 55 year old embargo, Cuba annually has to spend more than US$1,000,000 to buy some of the cited educational resources from China and other distant countries. Consequently, transportation costs alone contribute significantly to the greater expenses for Cuba to acquire these resources from the cited distant markets compared to acquiring them much cheaper in the geographically closer US markets.

    Secondly and in keeping with the first point, the Cuban Revolution would be able to invest some of those saved resources should the embargo be ended in the construction of more schools, laboratories, training of teachers, specialists in a myriad of areas of education and modernization of depreciated educational facilities and other educational investments.

    In short, the revolution would be able to increase its capacity to train even larger numbers of Cuban and foreign students in a multiple of disciplines such as engineering,economics, medicine, computer science and others in growing demand in the increasingly globalized world.

    In this regard, though the vicious US embargo has not achieved its primary political objective to overthrow the Cuban Revolution and to replace it with the decadent dependent and mafia-like capitalism it overthrew, it is clearly creating significant damages as well as serious developmental obstacles for the revolution’s capacity to deliver even more educational services as well as more material wealth to its people.

    Thirdly, the difficulties that the US embargo imposes on education, health,agriculture,manufacturing and other areas of Cuban life undoubtedly reduces the revolution’s capacity to significantly improve the material standard of living of its people which remains one of its primary cherished goal.

    However, in the area of education specifically, it has limited the capacity of this sector to expand the training and graduation of more specialists, skilled workers, technicians and experts than it currently does not only to grow the education sector itself and to serve the revolution more effectively but it also limits the capacity of the education sector to supply more trained and specialized workers to the other sectors within the Cuban economy such as tourism, agriculture and health care. The latter reality also stunts the growth and development of these sectors in creating more jobs, incomes and output and in so doing to serve more optimally the interests of the people of Cuba and the world more.

    In other words, economists would say that the US embargo over the last 55 years or so though it has miserably failed in its main political objective to overthrow and destroy the revolution, it certainly has not failed to push the production possibilities curve or PPC of the Cuban economy inwardly to the left or at best it has not pushed Cuba’s PPC to the right where it would likely be without the US embargo.

    Simply put, the US embargo is making the Cuban economy less productive and less efficient in its use of its potential to use its resources to create more wealth. Thus, when the US embargo ends as it will, the Cuban economy’s capacity to produce more wealth will expand because of the increase and cheaper resources that will flow into the Cuban economy from the US.

    Finally, the criminal US embargo not only restricts the capacity of the education sector and other sectors within the Cuban Revolution to grow and develop but as an internationalist revolutionary government, the US embargo also restricts the capacity of the revolution to extend more solidarity to peoples and governments particularly those in developing countries.

    The latter means that an end to the US embargo will enhance the resources available to the revolution to extend more assistance to liberation struggles in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and those in other parts of the globe as well as to extend help to people who need medical assistance or assistance to rebuild after a devastating natural disaster such as the earthquake in Nepal, Ecuador and Italy or the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa earlier this year.

    Nonetheless, it is still beyond doubt that in-spite of the US embargo, the Cuban revolution,its people and visionary leaders have always found creative and innovative ways to use their resources to grow their education and health sectors to world standards even being recognized by the WHO and the World Bank as model achievements in the world and the best in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    So, can the world imagine what the Cuban Revolution and its people would be able to achieve with potentially billions of dollars in savings in the absence of the US embargo how much more progress the revolution would have made in education,health food production and other areas?

    Isn’t the reason for the US ruling class to still maintain their globally discredited embargo intended to block such progress for the Cuban people and its revolution?

    Thus to be angry with the injustices of the US embargo in holding back Cuba’s revolutionary advances and by implications its international solidarity assistance to anti-imperialist movements globally is an excellent first step. However, it would be even more important to organize practical activities such as trips to Cuba to show people both the achievements and challenges of the revolution and to organize lectures to highlight the mutual benefits to the US and Cuba to end the embargo.

    Peace and love to all who embrace Peace and justice!!

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