Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's the point of education?

Claudia Ramos
Reporting from Havana

Making my way back from dinner in the streets of Havana, I ran into four children between ten and eleven years of age.  These children ran freely through the streets, barefooted and shirtless. They seemed to be lost in their own world, a world full of happiness and free of social problems.
Happiness; that is the standard that defines the Cuban people. Who despite any obstacle, any limitation continue to smile and embrace their difficulties.

Seeing these four children brought a huge smile to my face.
With the warming personality that characterizes most Cubans, they approach me and say hello. I ask them what they are doing out so late, they giggle and the leader of the group, Carlos, tells me they are celebrating mothers day. “Celebrating mothers day? At nine o’clock at night?” I think to myself, I smile and without much hesitation ask them where I can find the nearest market.
They kindly offer to take me to one that is just down the block; they said I could purchase whatever I wanted there. We make our way down to the market and as we walk in between puddles and the humid heat of Havana, I ask them if they will go to school the next day. They all answer and say, “yes of course, we have to.”
Education in Cuba is free; Cubans are legally required to graduate from high school. If they chose to continue on with their studies at a university level they can do so for free as well. Cubans can study from ballet to medicine. Most little girls dream of becoming ballerinas, the boys baseball or soccer players. It was part of the opportunities that Fidel Castro brought to the Cuban people. However, as I have come to learn most people with university degrees earn the same amount of money that other average Cubans without a college education do. Therefore, for many Cubans it is pointless to go school.
As we approach the small, rather iron barred window the children called a market, I ask the man in charge if I can purchase bottled water. He looks at me as if I am crazy.  He tells me that they only sell alcohol and cigarettes there. I look at the four children and they genuinely smile at me, they tell me they thought it was a market. As I make my way back to the hotel, we part ways and I watch the four children run away through the dark streets of Havana and wonder what their future will be like.

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