Over 80 delegates attended a joint fringe meeting organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign at the National Union of Teachers Conference today.
Visiting educational specialist Dr Isora Enriquez O’Farrill of the Pedagogical University in Havana spoke of her personal experience as a teacher and about her role as a television presenter/teacher in Cuba’s innovative and interactive University for All initiative. University for All is a series of television programmes – particularly focusing on foreign languages – which Cuba has produced to expand the boundaries and accessibility of education.
Isora told delegates about Cuba’s Yo Si Puede (Yes I Can) campaign which has been rolled out internationally to bring language teaching and education to a wealth of developing countries. Countries from Venezuela to Guatemala, from Nicaragua to Mexico are benefiting from Cuba’s prioritisation of education and empowerment of the world’s poorest people. Yo Si Puede has even been developed in Seville, Spain and has been adapted for various indigenous languages in Latin America.
Isora traced Cuba’s commitment to education to the triumph of the revolution. In particular, she highlighted the literacy campaigns of 1961 when “thousands of young urban people went into the countryside to teach peasants and workers how to read and write. The whole country was turned into a classroom”. According to Isora, “education is a gift that government can give to its people. It contributes to the development of the country and enriches the people’s mind”.
Fellow Cuban Professor Eduardo Garbey Savigne of the Havana Medical Sciences University linked Cuba’s emphasis on education with their magnificent records in health and international solidarity. As Eduardo explained:
“We are a developing country with very few resources but we have thousands of medical workers going around the world in developing countries giving medical support. Not only do they give help, but they give opportunities to poor people in developing countries to train to become doctors and raise their aspirations.”
New NUT President Nina Franklin celebrated Cuba’s achievements and declared: “We have so much to learn from Cuba and we don’t do enough nationally to recognise the work Cuba has done educationally and internationally.”
Nina called on the trade union movement to build on its work with CSC and intensify the campaign to free the Miami Five. As she concluded: “it isn’t until you go to Cuba that you realise how important education is. It’s normal in Cuba for schools to have dentists, doctors and nurses on site. Children are at the very centre of Cuban society.”
Former Labour MP Colin Burgon championed the progressive challenge to neo-liberalism in Latin America and heralded Cuba as having “flown the flag for a different kind of politics since the revolution”.