Two 40 ft containers full of vital educational aid will be shipped to Cuba in April thanks to the fantastic efforts of the NEU, and CSC members and affiliates. CSC director Rob Miller sends a message of thanks to all supporters
It’s fantastic news that the Viva la Educacíon (VLE) appeal surpassed its £100,000 target in April. On behalf of CSC and the NEU, I want thank every trade union, organisation and individual who donated, organised a fundraising event, or shared information about the appeal.
Your support means that two 40ft shipping containers are now booked and scheduled to leave British docks in late April, arriving in Cuba just a few weeks later.
These containers will be full of educational aid for schools and colleges across the island. At the time of writing in early April, we have already bought 300 refurbished desktop computers for schools and 40 laptops for teachers – all with the latest operating systems. Educational aid also sourced includes 140,000 exercise books, tens of thousands of pens, colour and graded pencils for arts, craft supplies such as paints brushes, paper and other essential items. We are currently working hard to find resources at the best possible price to make maximum use of your donations.
In addition to generous donations from several national unions including ASLEF, CWU, FBU, NUM, TSSA and the RMT, Unite branches have raised £25,000 through their ‘Grassroots Sports for Cuba’ appeal. This will pay for footballs, volleyballs, basketballs, baseballs, nets, team kits and specialist equipment to enable students with special educational needs and disabilities to participate in sports as part of VLE.
Musical education is so important in Cuba and bought thousands of reeds, strings and accessories which will ensure that children across the island will be able to keep playing and developing new skills.
Pellacraft, the trade union merchandise supplier has donated stationery and pens, and the Royal Ballet has sent us dance clothing and hundreds of pairs of ballet shoes.
Full details of what is included in the shipment will be available in the next CubaSí magazine and on the appeal website later this year. A full list of donors can be viewed here.
FUN(d) raising money and awareness for VLE
Raising awareness about the impact of the US blockade on education in Cuba is as important as raising money for VLE. In 2023 alone there have been several great examples of campaigning fundraisers.
Quizes, socials, salsa and music nights organised by CSC and NEU groups in Birmingham, Harringey, Liverpool and Manchester in 2023 not only raised vital funds, but also reminded donors that the appeal was not just about practical solidarity to support education in Cuba, but also campaigning against the 61 year old US blockade.
More than 1,000 delegates to the NEU conference in Harrogate celebrated a year of fundraising for Viva la Educación on 2 April. The appeal was officially launched at the teaching union’s conference in 2021, and Niurka Gonzalez Obera General Secretary of the Cuban teaching union, SNTECD, returned to address the whole conference and thank members for their work.
Standing alongside her, NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney blasted the “illegal embargo.”
“You do not have to support the Cuban style of government to think this blockade used by the world’s greatest superpower to bully the Cuban people is wrong.
“It should be up to them to decide the form of the government that they wish to live under – it is not the job of the US,” he stressed, to rapturous applause.
“Why do we need to have these appeals? Cuba is a country that dedicates a high percentage of its national budget to education. Education is prioritised and inclusive in Cuba. Anyone who has visited, including over 100 NEU delegates who have participated in delegations over the past nine years, will have seen the shortages that Cuban teachers and students have to overcome to fulfil their educational potential. We wouldn’t need to fundraise for Cuba if it wasn’t for the US blockade.
“I hope that with the Viva La Education appeal we can make a small contribution to helping Cuban teachers and students, and at the same time we can do our bit in breaking this illegal blockade.”
Niurka Gonzalez Obera followed by thanking the British education union and CSC: “I am here before you to thank you, the NEU and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign for organising this appeal to raise funds for essential teaching equipment and classrooms in Cuba, as well as to support students, Cuban teachers and creative arts education. Thank you for the fundraising and donations that NEU districts have organised, to the CSC groups and members who have raised money; as well as other UK unions have also donated to this important activity over the past year.
“Thank you for the £100,000 that you have raised to send two containers to Cuba, full of resources that my country lacks as a result of the inhumane blockade by the US government. This is a genocidal, inhuman blockade, in violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.
Resources such as: educational materials, pens, exercise books, laptops, sports equipment, artistic materials and other items that our boys, girls, teenagers, as well as their teachers, in all fields of education, are in great need of and will be very well received.
“The numerous regulations and restrictions issued by the US government against Cuba has reached unprecedented levels of hostility in the last two years.
“However, Cuba, that small island blockaded for more than 60 years by the biggest superpower in the world, has resisted and will continue to do so.
“Thank you for your visits and for sending the Braille machines that our blind and visually impaired children need so much and, that as a result of the blockade, Cuba cannot buy. Thank you for more than 20 years of exchanges between our unions. I am very happy to be able to share these days with you and I appreciate your support and welcome.”
After the speeches the whole conference took part in a celebration photo call, holding up Viva la Educacíon cut outs of pencils, scissors and rulers, and ‘End the blockade’ posters, and left the conference hall to the soundtrack of Guantanamera, the iconic Cuban song which sets to music the words of a poem by Cuban poet, independence fighter and inspiration for the Cuban Revolution José Martí.
STILL TIME TO DONATE
CSC sends regular donations and material aid to Cuba so any donations made after the Viva La Educación containers leave in late April will still support projects educational and health appeals in Cuba. The VLE donation page will remain open for donations to material aid projects in Cuba.