The Flower Seller- by Diego Rivera
Around 1970 massiveness exploded. The population had grown a great deal and with the new opportunities to study, the grand influx of students led to a shortage of teachers. It was then that the practice of graduating emerging professors was put into place- a technique that has been revived in these past few years.
I clearly remember the evolution of the recruitment process in the educational station Manuel Ascunce. In that era, I myself was a teacher and they first came asking for volunteers amongst my basic secondary students to make them teachers for newly emerging courses. At first, the recruitment was voluntary but later they forced many to take the step, in order to appeal to their revolutionary conscience. They pressured them quite a lot to accept, especially those who were members of juvenile organizations. When some would openly refuse because they did not like the magisterial system and the recruitment process did not advance in the desired speed, they were told it was mandatory. They would take them to meetings where they tried to convince them- the pressure in such reunions were intolerable. After many hours, the meetings would end and all of them would have finally accepted. In their eyes one could see that they had been coerced. Many would lean towards studying to become teachers in order to get the stressful process they were in over with, while others did so in appreciation of the Revolution, even though their professions had been completely different. The majority of them graduated and exercised their roles as teachers without even being fond of it.
For discontent and for lack of vocation, improvisation was added. Teachers of emerging courses, whom were recently graduated and very young (almost the same age as their students), confronted tasks that often were too advanced for them. The custom of male teachers having sexual relations with their female students became a normality. If before they would expel teachers with such immoral tendencies, now it was a situation that occurred frequently. Everything became more complicated with the politics of students having to forcefully be granted scholarships from very young ages.
When scholarships were mentioned, everyone saw it as the perfect opportunity for the children of poor families to study in a university with the possibility of removing the family from poverty forever. Students were awarded scholarships if they wanted to study domestically, either because both parents worked, because he/she lived too distant from any other schools, or simply because they favored the regime and wanted to pass the time. But in each case it was a free decision and who could be against that. However, the scholarship became a style of slavery. What was at first seen with much enthusiasm was later hated. The scholarship went from being synonymous with “opportunity” to being synonymous with “captivity”.
Amongst the first group of granted students during those years of the Revolution were two young girls that came from the Sierra Maestra and were going to Havana to study Style and Dressmaking. They were housed in the best residences of Miramar that the wealthiest families in the country had abandoned. You don’t have to be a genius to imagine how proud their parents must have felt, most likely being very poor and not having been able to even travel to the Cuban capital, seeing their two daughters living in mansions and in neighborhoods that not even they, in their wildest dreams, could have seen. Precisely, at the core of causing such an effect was the great propaganda of “the rich and the exploiters want to return to take away such a beautiful opportunity that the Revolution has given us”. As the craze of moment passed, the prized students were housed in other places and the luxurious residences came to be used for other purposes. I never ever heard mention again of the seamstresses, nor did I ever hear that word in the official phraseology again.
In the mid 60’s, there were thousands of scholarship holding students from the pre-university school housed in the beach of Tarara. For a young graduate of the ninth grade from the provinces, studying in Havana symbolized a great advancement, even though the majority were there against their will and would have preferred the external pre-university school but there existed no other option, neither for them or for their parents. There they found a very strict military-style discipline and a staff of very extremist people who were in a very bitter ideological combat against religious beliefs and certain other styles that were considered inconvenient. The parents that were at first against their children receiving grants by force now tiredly sighed and would say that at least their children were not wasting their time and were preparing for the future. I remember that during those years some of those who were given scholarships would talk to us, their friends, and they bitterly lamented about being internal students. What they envied the most about us students studying in the exterior (because we were older we were not given scholarships) was that our regime was more flexible. They would tell us that those in charge of military discipline were too extremists, that they would get pleasure out of reporting them to go before disciplinary courts, with the danger of losing their chance back home which was very treasured.
The more inflexible and intolerant those in charge of discipline were, the quicker they ascended in that semi-military hierarchy.
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