Arriva la Educación! Aid arrives in Cuban schools

Much-needed educational materials, bought with funds raised by the Viva la Educación appeal, are arriving in the island’s schools and colleges. Shortly after the new Cuban academic year began in September 2023, students and teachers were receiving some of the hundreds of thousands of educational items distributed across Cuba thanks to the Viva la Educación (VLE) appeal launched by CSC and the National Education Union (NEU) in February 2022.

First year students at the San Alejandro School of Visual Arts with paints, brushes and paper

Watch a thank you video from students at the San Alejandro School of Visual Arts

More than £100,000 was raised in the year-long appeal, enough to fill two forty-foot containers full of aid. The funds were spent on materials and equipment requested by the Cuban education union, including 300 refurbished PCs with new operating systems, hundreds of thousands of pencils, tens of thousands of exercise books, paints, paint brushes, graded paper, card, and other stationery. When extra items donated by organisations including the Royal Ballet and Pellacraft are taken into account, the total worth of aid sent is estimated to be around £300,000.

With the current fuel and transport difficulties in Cuba, it has taken slightly longer than planned to send the two containers of aid out from the port, but we are delighted to report the process is now well under way.

In mid-October, Cuban national TV featured the story in a news report which showed schools receiving the first wave of donations in the provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, Villa Clara, Artemisa and Santiago de Cuba.

Niurka González Obrera, General Secretary of the Cuban union of teachers, science and sports workers (SNTECD), was interviewed in the report and said: “The donations from the Viva la Educación project will be sent to around 200 primary, secondary and special schools across the island.”

Students pictured with a desktop computer and stationary supplies
Students pictured with a desktop computer loaded with Windows 10 and a range of stationary supplies

The SNTECD also forwarded pictures and videos of the aid being delivered to other schools in Cuba. Yaima Rodriguez Aleaga, a Year Five teacher at the Escuela Primaria Hermanos Saiz sent a message to donors in Britain: “I would like to thank my teacher colleagues in the United Kingdom for the solidarity and help that you have provided. This will help us enormously in developing our education process here at this difficult time.”

Eloys Asin Repilado, a Year Six student, can be seen speaking eloquently on behalf of his class at the Escuela Primaria ‘República de Colombia’ in Central Havana. “I’d like to thank everyone who has made these donations which will help us all, including many schools which don’t have all the resources they need,” he said.

Six Havana schools were among the first to receive items, including five primary schools: Justino Báez, Hermanos Saiz, República de Colombia, María Díaz Verzón, Mario Muñoz Monroy and the secondary school Bartolomé Mazó Márquez. They all received a classroom-ready desktop computer running Windows 10 and a range of stationery supplies.

First year students at the Alejandro García Caturla Elementary School of Music receive new violins

Watch a thank you video from students at the Alejandro García Caturla School of Music

As part of the appeal, trade union activists from Unite raised over £25,000 to buy sports equipment including thousands of footballs, basketballs, and volleyballs.

In the October half-term, a delegation of 22 teachers from the NEU travelled to Havana, and Pinar del Río, where they visited a number of schools to see the delivery of some of the aid in person. They also took the opportunity to take 17 refurbished Braille machines for blind and visually impaired children with them (a full report of this delegation will appear in the January 2024 edition of CubaSí).

In addition to the educational aid, the SNTECD received support from the appeal to service and communicate with the more than 400,000 teachers, science and sports workers who make up their membership. This included 40 laptops for regional and local offices, printers, ink, desk fans, paper, and even car parts to help keep the union functioning in these difficult times.

The two shipping containers also carried more than 1,000 pairs of ballet shoes and dance equipment donated by the Royal Ballet, and hundreds of brand new musical instruments and reeds bought by the Music Fund for Cuba charity.

Speaking at the CSC TUC Congress fringe meeting in September, Cuban Ambassador Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez thanked everyone who had donated to VLE: “To all the trade unions and individuals who contributed to Viva appeal, I express our massive thanks,” she said.

CSC too would like to once again thank all the individual CSC members, trade union, organisations, and friends and supporters who donated, hosted fundraising events, and raised awareness of the appeal.

Niurka Gonzalez with educational aid in Cuban primary school
Niurka Gonzalez, General Secretary of the Cuban teaching union with some of the students receiving aid