CSC and NEU joined by Niurka Gonzalez for online event -
Campaign News | Friday, 24 July 2020
As part of our ongoing series of online discussions, on Monday CSC and the NEU jointly hosted the event “Another Education is Possible”.
The meeting was chaired by Gawain Little, the Chair of the NEU International Committee, and was broadcast live on Zoom and streamed live on YouTube, with hundreds of people joining from all around the world.
We were delighted to invite the General Secretary of Cuba’s Education Union (SNTECD), Niurka Gonzalez. However, due to the ongoing US blockade, Cubans are unable to access Zoom and Niurka was therefore unable to join us live.
We instead recorded an interview with Niurka which was shown first. Niurka discussed Cuba’s response to Covid-19 in the education sector. Niurka explained that, “Here in Cuba we have an Education Channel, and through an immense effort by the Ministry of Education, we were able to quickly get classes planned, to be broadcast on television.”
Niurka went further by detailing the role teaching unions played during the crisis, and in the plans to get children back to school. She also looked back on 25 years of solidarity between the National Education Union (NEU) in Britain and the National Union of Education, Science and Sports Workers (SNTECD) in Cuba.
Next to speak was Bernard Regan, CSC’s National Chair and trustee of the NEU who has supported many delegations to Cuba in the past. Bernard shared with us some of the achievements of the Revolution in Education. He said, “from the literacy campaign which began during the first year of the Revolution, with 100,000 young people going around the countryside and the neighbourhoods teaching the population to read… and within a period of 6 months the literacy rate shot up from around 44% to around 90%.
One of the main forms of solidarity taken by CSC and the NEU is via the Solidarity Delegations, and next to speak was Lucy Coleman who travelled to Cuba on the 2018 NEU delegation. Lucy talked about her experiences on that delegation, telling the audience that Cuban education system is built around three principles, Love, respect and pride. Lucy said that she admired the breadth of expressive arts like dance and poetry in the Cuban curriculum; “something that is often missing in schools in the UK.”
Up next was Malcom Richards, a member of the NEU who has also attended past delegations to Cuba. Malcom spoke about race and education in Cuba. Malcom said that “seeing black women in leadership at the highest level and at every level of the Cuban education system was awe inspiring.” Malcolm finished by quoting members of the black community that he met in Cuba: “it is the blockade that causes us the most pain, because we are all Cubans and we are all affected by it.”
Just before the meeting ended, we were delighted to be joined by Her Excellency, Bárbara Elena Montalvo Álvarez, Cuban ambassador to the United Kingdom. The Ambassador thanked all the speakers and all those watching at home. She went on to say that the meetings topic of education meant a great deal to her because her mother was a teacher and “nothing made her happier than the achievements of the revolution.”
Mentioned throughout the meeting was the book Beyond the Blockade, co-published by the NEU and CSC and edited by Gawain Little, Malcolm Richards, Aretha Green and Phil Yeeles. The book is available to purchase here.
To watch the full meeting, "Another Education is Possible", click here.