In Cuba, more and more private operators like churches and individual teachers are filling in the gaps in the country's education system and providing necessary knowledge to students. This comes in conjunction with the country's economic reform. Raiza Martinez, a 48 year old resident of Havana and mother of a 13 year old girl, has her daughter in private school classes twice a week; she also meets with a tutor.
"School is not enough these days," said Martinez "Sometimes a teacher does not know how to reach students or does not teach the subject well. I had to look for support from [private] tutors. It wasn't like that in my day. You used to get a very good education in [public] school. Now the material conditions in classrooms are good, and they are receiving the scheduled classes. But there are fewer excellent teachers than there were before [the crisis]",
Anai Porro says she has to help her son with most of his classes. She says due tothe lack of consistency in school and the shortage of good teachers she has had to put him in private English and Math classes.
Cuba's public school system is completely free and has not been able to recover quality it lost in the 1990's economic crisis. Currently it has 1.84 million students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools and 200,000 university students. Being able to improve facilities and recuperate education excellence have been unattainable goals despite efforts to train teachers and redistribute current personnel.
The nation's capitol Havana has the most critical situation, hiring 3,069 teachers from other provinces. There were also many other provinces with teacher shortages, but some provinces like Pinar del Rio and Granma are fully staffed. This allows teachers with poor performances to enroll in training courses.
"Not all of the results are visible yet, because it's not something that changes from one day to the next," VelÃ¡zquez told local news outlets on Dec. 16. For now there are no plans to resort to rapid training courses, such as the "Emerging Teachers" programme that ensured the necessary number of teachers in 2000.
Families who can afford it are hiring tutors. Tutor fees vary from 10-50 Cuban pesos per class. Employment offices reported that there were around 1,023 private tutors. Churches are also offering education services. The La Salle Center has around 500 students attend their classes every week.
"The teachers are very good, and they instill a set of values in us that you don't find elsewhere," Andy Morera told IPS. The young man wears a cross around his neck and a Yoruba – an Africa-based religion – bracelet on his wrist. "I've taken several courses in English. I'm a dedicated student," he said.
With around 150 students the workshops that offer lessons in English and private business ownership are the most popular.
English classes for young people and children, small and medium business management, computers, executive management, and human values training are the courses offered by this centre, directed by Aurelio GÃ³mez, who is known as Brother MartÃn. "The demand is too much for us to meet," he told IPS.
A similar school is in Santiago de Cuba, which is East of Havana. This center is financed by tuition of 25 Cuban pesos a month.
"In recent times, we've seen all of the dioceses making an effort to contribute to education," Orlando MÃ¡rquez, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Havana, told IPS. Currently there are several educational initiatives being carried out by the country's 11 dioceses, some of them free.
These schools have classes that include tutoring, language, computer skills, teacher training, preschool and more. The Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue in Cuba has trained more than 100 entrepreneurs in western Cuba and offers classes on agriculture, environment, marriage and family. These workshops attracted nearly 1500 people this year.