Speech given by the President of the Republic of Cuba, Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, at the inauguration ceremony for the Intensive Training Course for Comprehensive Junior High School Teachers. Karl Marx Theater, September 9, 2002
Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia
Honorable Minister of Public Health of Honduras;
Esteemed Representative of UNESCO in Cuba;
Professors and students of President Salvador Allende School;
I am deeply grateful for the kind and generous letter recently sent to us by the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, which read: "at the meeting held in Paris from July 1 to 5, 2002, the International Literacy Prize Jury decided to award a Special Mention in the King Sejong International Prize to The process of literacy and the mass media: An alternative for underdeveloped countries, from Cuba."
This special mention is a great encouragement to our country for our modest contribution to the fight against illiteracy, which afflicts a large part of the peoples of the Third World. Illiteracy is a painful and cruel problem for which there is a simple, highly economical and absolutely feasible solution, if the international community wished to implement it. This method, initially designed to combat illiteracy in Niger, estimated at over 80%, is now available in five languages.
I am also especially grateful for the warm words expressed by the UNESCO representative in Cuba, Mr. Francisco José Lacayo Parajón, complying with the instructions of the UNESCO Director-General, who asked him to present us with the special mention in a public ceremony yesterday, September 8, International Literacy Day. We requested that he do it today, when we had planned to gather together to inaugurate a great teaching institution and a course for thousands of young people destined for an important educational program.
I should also mention that for our people, it has been a great honor to welcome the visiting minister of public health of Honduras, who wanted to express recognition for our cooperation in the fight against dengue in his country. For us, this simply constitutes a basic duty to the people of Honduras and other sister nations in Latin America and the rest of the world.
The Cuban people will highly appreciate the noble gesture this entails, further fostering the spirit of cooperation with that nation, which kindly and hospitably sheltered some our most brilliant and outstanding military and political leaders during the struggles for our independence from colonialism.
All of the foregoing has come to pass this evening quite by chance, without having been previously planned or scheduled by the organizers of this ceremony, yet it has contributed to making this an even more prestigious and meaningful event.
Seventy-two hours ago, I spoke about how the idea emerged for the intensive training of comprehensive junior high school teachers. Today, as we officially inaugurate this new teachers-training course, I feel especially moved.
On September 2, 3526 intensively trained primary school teachers graduated from President Salvador Allende School, which was in ruins just two years ago. And on that same day, in that very same school, which had been expanded to reach its original capacity of 4500 students, as well as totally renovated, refurbished and equipped with the most modern educational resources, classes began again. This time, the students were 4542 recent senior high school graduates, including 134 who had completed grade 12 as part of a technical training program. They had come here from the entire country to participate in the most radical transformation of junior high school education ever to take place in our country or anywhere else in the world.
A dean, five assistant deans, a teaching secretary, the director of the Pedagogical Information Center, and the secretaries of the Communist Party and the Young Communist League direct this new school. They all enjoy great authority and prestige as educational experts.
The faculty comprises 412 eminent and experienced professors, including 44 PhDs, 92 masters in science, 27 full professors, 60 associate professors, and 189 in other teaching categories; 218 are members of the Communist Party, while 71 belong to the Young Communist League. They hail from all the different provinces in the country, just like the students.
As for the students, 3242 graduated from senior high schools in the countryside, 458 from senior high teacher-training schools, 456 from urban senior high schools, 252 from vocational senior high schools for the exact sciences, and 134 from professional-technical training programs.
Of the total number of new "Brave Ones", 2440 are the children of workers, 1252 are children of professionals, 695 are children of peasants, and 155 are children of members of the armed forces. A large number of them, 2575, are members of the Young Communist League.
They will follow a rigorous schedule. They will undertake intensive study, including teaching practice. They will receive 2234 class hours of general training, methodological training and teaching practice. They will also receive 72 hours of physical education as a required subject. They will have 40 minutes a day for sports, which will be optional, in addition to the hours devoted to physical education.
The school has 145 classrooms with room for 30 students each, all of them equipped with a 29-inch television set, a VCR and a computer; 10 computer labs with 15 computers each, hooked up to a network; six natural sciences labs; two vocational education workshops; five libraries; 16 professors’ lounges; two rooms equipped with closed-circuit television; a theater; a gymnasium; and a Pedagogical Information Center.
The time dedicated to training throughout almost an entire year will be much greater than it was during the first course for "Brave Ones". Once they have graduated as intensively trained teachers, a large number of them will work for a whole school year in junior high schools throughout the capital, alongside the current teachers, applying the results that emerge from the experiments underway at the Yuri Gagarin and José Martí Schools. They will then go on to teach at the junior high schools in their respective provinces, taking with them an impressive amount of training and experience.
At the same time, the university-level teacher training colleges in each province will intensively train another 3000 young people as junior high school teachers, following the same program of studies.
Within five years, more than 30,000 young people will have been trained as highly qualified teachers, who will continue with higher studies while working as junior high school teachers according to the new concepts.
There are currently half a million adolescents enrolled in junior high schools in Cuba, which is why these steps will be of so transcendental for the educational revolution in our country.
President Salvador Allende School, a genuine pedagogical institute, will serve as a model that will make a profound mark on the history of education in Cuba.
The diverse social and ethnic composition of the student body at this new institution is exemplary. We are pleased to be advancing towards a society of full equality, equity and justice, in which any remnants of the objective discrimination inherited from centuries of slavery and poverty, allowing only a part of the population to enjoy the fruits of education, are being definitely eradicated.
Young "Brave Ones" from all of the eastern, central and western provinces, gathered here today; sons and daughters of workers and peasants, manual laborers and intellectuals, forgers of a homeland created "with all and for the good of all", in the fullest sense of Martí’s words, which translated into the concepts of the time we are living in means literally a socialist homeland, just as his declaration that "Humanity is Homeland" is the most eloquent expression of an internationalist spirit: I congratulate you on your entry into this school and the beginning of your training.
The young people of our generation never saw anything like this, and many of them died in the pursuit of a better and more dignified future for their people. You, along with the hundreds of thousands of others like you who are studying, working, defending the homeland or carrying out internationalist missions, constitute the greatest fruits of those sacrifices.
We have expected and always found in you the tenacity and heroism that lead to victory.
The greatest desire of all Cuban revolutionaries is for every new generation to be better prepared for the huge challenges that the future brings for our country and all of humankind. Every minute of your lives, you must be fully aware of the great responsibility that the country and the Revolution have entrusted in you: for the moment, to study hard and fulfill your duty with honor. You will, very soon, enter into action, and support the efforts of our educators in confronting the current obstacles and difficulties in our junior high schools. And then, without rest or respite, you will continue to struggle for an ever-higher comprehensive general culture and education among our people.
We will continue onward victoriously, proving that in the unprecedented and enormously difficult conditions in which our heroic people have been obliged to struggle, the impossible is in fact possible.
Patria o muerte!