Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Speech

FL141500 Havana Domestic Service in Spanish 0109 GMT 12 Jul 80

[Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro at graduation ceremony of the
Manuel Ascunce Domenech Teachers detachment at Havana's Earl Marx Theater
on 11 July--recorded]

[Text] Dear comrades, I was very moved, watching the proceedings, the
handing out [interrupts thought] first, how you listened to that
magnificent oath, how the diplomas were handed out to the outstanding
students of the fourth and second contingent. I listened to the words of
the comrade who spoke in the name of our teachers in Nicaragua, to the
presentation of the identification card to the comrade from Santiago. I
believe she's from Santiago. Oh, she's from Guantanamo, that's right. Well,
they are very close. No, the girl from Santiago is over here. Guantanamo,
Santiago. Then, all of a sudden, Ortega [not further identified] reminded
me I had to step up on the podium and speak. So, I am here without too much
mental preparation.

Well, I asked, who am I speaking to? No less than teachers, graduates of
the detachment; that is, from the general teaching courses at the
intermediate level, teachers with bachelors in education, [applause] a new
generation of teachers, professors--demanding, exacting, high-level
teachers and professors. Just because these events are periodic--since they
are held every year--it does not mean that they are less impressive. Or
less moving.

Rather, they show us what we have been achieving, since a graduation of
this kinds--5,836 teachers--is something transcendental, especially if we
recall that only a few years ago, the total of students in the schools of
education did not exceed a few hundred, and today 5,836 are graduating. And
the number of graduates next year will be around 10,000 from the various

As you know, the ones here belong to the first Contingents to receive their
bachelors, to become professors. But I believe that next year there will be
three contingents. Let me see. If I can understand it well, I may be able
to explain it to you. The fifth contingent will graduate, Isn't that so?
The last contingent of secondary teachers. The teachers of the third
contingent graduate. And I believe the first ones of the sixth contingent
graduate. Is that clear, professor? If it is so, it is. [laughter] The
third ones of the sixth contingent, which is the first Preuniversity
contingent. Is that clear or is it all muddled up? [laughter]

Three groups are graduating next year. The explanation for this? Well, the
sixth contingent follows a 4-year course. Those in the fifth contingent who
enrolled the year before follow a 5-year course, And those of the third are
taking a 2-year course to get their bachelors, Of course, this does not
include the students and graduates. the graduations that are taking place
constantly of thousands and thousands of elementary school teachers who
have become intermediate-level teachers and other categories of students
and graduates. The ones here are simply the graduates of the teachers'
detachment. Really, the numbers of students in the various courses, of our
teachers, are impressive. Impressive. In the teachers' training institutes
alone, there are around 57,000. When you add the other courses, when you
add the elementary teachers, those who are taking courses for their
bachelors, and so forth--they are easily more than 100,000, easily. I think
that the figure is so high that it is incredible. I saw some numbers around
that said 157,000. This includes those studying to be elementary school
teachers. It really is an incredible figure.

We can say that, at this time, the bulk of our teaching personnel is
engaged in a great endeavor of study and improvement by the teachers and
professors themselves. All the plans aim for the improvement of our
teaching personnel, which is highly varied. Here we have the comrades of
the first contingent to receive their bachelors who have done so by
studying two additional years after their graduation. Concerning the second
contingent, we can tell you that 85 percent of those from the second
contingent who received their teachers' certificates are today graduating
with bachelors in education. We shall see--and we hope that we do--if more
than 8s percent of the 4,020 from the fourth contingent graduating here
will be able to graduate two years from now with their bachelors degrees.

Future graduations will be those of students who started out with 12th
grade educations. At the same time, we have courses for elementary teachers
who became intermediate teachers and who now are studying to become senior
intermediate teachers.

We have teachers who began their studies to become elementary school
teachers with a sixth-grade education. They are now studying to reach the
levels they would have had they started out with a high school education.
We have thousands, tens of thousands of what we could call people's
teachers. They had no degrees and yet they responded to the call of the
nation and the revolution to teach the children. During these past years,
they have been graduating and attaining the position of teachers with a
degree. They will in turn join other categories of students in a continuous
process of self-improvement. The ministry, the state will provide
facilities to these teachers to the extent that we have the necessary
resources available to provide these self-improvement courses.

We have elementary school teachers who are preparing to start studying for
a degree in elementary teaching. And they are also in the many thousands.
And they give us an idea of the nature of this self-improvement movement
among the teaching personnel in our country.

If we think of the situation in the past when, on the one hand, we had
thousands of children without classrooms, and, on the other, enormous
difficulties in recruiting teachers who would work in the countryside and
in the mountains; if we recall that 20 years ago we had a high rate of
illiteracy; and if we see that today we are fulfilling the goal of
attaining a sixth-grade education as the minimum in a large number of the
country's municipalities, we can see how much we have advanced in
education, what very high goals we have attained by taking this road.

But it is not only that, since education cannot be measured only in terms
of quantity, in terms of numbers. It is also measured in terms of quality.
In future years our problem will not be how many teachers without degrees
are working in our classrooms or how many children of elementary and
secondary school age are in school, because the total percentage will be
100 percent. As we improve our institutions and schools for children with
difficulties of one kind or another [leaves sentence incomplete] in the
future all cur efforts will basically concentrate on the quality of our
education. This not an effort of the future but rather an effort which we
have been making for several years now with our improvement of education
plans, with new programs, new textbooks, new experiences, with
better-prepared teachers, much higher level teachers.

Of course, we have a long way to go in the next 5, 10, 15,20 years. But who
knows what new goals we will attain? Goals which, if mentioned 20 years
ago, would have seemed a product of fantasy. And the years will come when
we have thousands and even tens of thousands of elementary school teachers
with university degrees, And we will have more material facilities, more
schools with smaller classes. And if for a certain number of years we had
to resort to the people's teacher without a degree--and we had tens of
thousands of those--imagine what the situation will be when we have tens of
thousands of bachelors of elementary education teaching in our country?
What an extraordinary, what a beautiful, what a promising future education
has in Cuba.

And this is heightened if we think not just about technical quality, about
the pedagogical quality of our teachers, but about the human, moral,
revolutionary quality of our teachers. These are not simply words because,
when we were listening to the comrade who spoke of her experiences and
those of her comrades and of her work in Nicaragua--over there in
Chontales, in areas where you have to walk for hours and days or ride on
horseback for hours and days or travel by boat, over there in places next
to which Baracoa is practically Lenin Park in Havana and the Sierra Maestra
is El Prado or Central Park, now those are really remote places and the
living conditions are difficult, very difficult according to reports we get
that are sometimes incredible--of how our 1,200 teachers scattered all over
the country with great enthusiasm to fulfill their task--when one has the
opportunity to listen to these accounts, these reports, these realities
which for us become quite natural things if we go back a few years.
Graduations such as these would not have been possible. Experiences such as
these would not have been possible. Those things were inconceivable, those
things belonged to the dreamers, to the deluded, to madmen; those things
that our comrade explains here so naturally. And she represents 1,200
teachers, many of them women.

And admiration goes deeper when we recall that when the call was made for
teachers for Nicaragua upon the triumph of the revolution in that brother
country, 29,500 elementary school teachers volunteered. But the stories she
can tell, and the experiences she can relate, and feelings she can express
here--our little comrade representing the teachers in Nicaragua--those are
the same things that any comrade of the Che Guevara teachers detachment now
teaching at the intermediate level in Angola could tell us with similar
merit and, in certain instances, with even greater merit. Or the type of
thing that any of the hundreds of elementary teachers who are also teaching
in Angola could tell us.

Many tales could be told such as our literacy workers could tell--those
very young students who went to the mountains in 1961 to wipe out
illiteracy in our country.

They set an admirable precedent and example which has served as a source of
experience for other nations such as Nicaragua which, though it has an even
higher rate of illiteracy than we had in Cuba, intends to wipe out
illiteracy in a single year.

In all the eras of our history--a history of a people whose quality rises,
whose pages are each day more meritorious--the teacher is always there. And
when we mention the names of illustrious patriots to honor them, the list
is headed by Marti, by Mendive, by Cespedes--from those illustrious
teachers of the 19th century to the illustrious teachers of this century:
(Guido) Varona, Frank Pais, Tey, Manuel Ascunce. Put that list could be
even longer because, in one way or another, all the founders of our nation
were teachers. They might not have taught in a schoolroom but they taught
in the classroom of the patriotic struggle, of the revolutionary struggle.
They even taught on the battlefields, because who can deny that Agramonte
was a great teacher? And that Maceo--that example of civic, patriotic
virtues, discipline, equity and justice, heroism--who can deny that he was
a great teacher? In the last analysis, the concept of the teacher includes
many things of which technical capacity and knowledge is only a part. There
are parts that are as important, and sometimes more important, such as the
capacity to mold the personality of the child, the youth, the adolescent,
the capacity to instill and awaken the noblest, fairest, worthiest
feelings, the capacity to develop all their potential values which range
from moral, esthetic values, to revolutionary, political values. That is
why it is difficult to believe that there can be any other task that is
more important in our society than the teachers.

Perhaps there is no other task which demands greater responsibilities than
the teacher's, than the educator's, in every sense because every child,
every youth will always see in the teacher a motive for inspiration. The
smallest defect in an educator multiplies in those he teaches. The smallest
fault and the smallest weakness multiply as many times as his virtues, his
example do. It is difficult to believe that there can be any other task
which demands more responsibilities and more duties. I believe that we have
had the privilege and good fortune to have among our educators a great
number of valuable and extraordinary human beings, a great number of
political values and a great number of revolutionaries.

I believe that we are privileged to have in our country a great number of
educators who are continuously being joined by new valuable comrades and
who are always ready to improve themselves, who are always willing to
fulfill the tasks that the fatherland and the revolution assign to them,
who are always willing to continue to study, to do research work, to
continue to develop their abilities, to continue to raise the level of the
quality of education in our fatherland and who understand the importance
that every teacher must be an example, that every teacher should be
invariably demanding and at the same time generous and kind. The teacher
should be demanding with himself first in order to be able to ask from his
students what he asks of himself.

It is not an exaggeration to say that in the countries of the so-called
Third World education is one of the most worrisome problems. And,
doubtlessly, it is not possible to name, it is not possible to imagine a
country of that so-called Third World which has attained the levels of
education reached by our fatherland. I am sure that others, through
revolutionary processes, will attain what we have today, but it is
difficult to imagine any other country which has a contingent of educators
of the quality our country has today. I am referring to countries of the
Third World, but we could talk about many non-Third World countries against
which we can already compete in technical quality and ahead of which we
are, of course, well ahead in humane and revolutionary qualities.

I understand what this graduation means to all of you. We know the effort
you have made since the appeal we made 8 years ago for solving what
appeared to be an insoluble situation. Since that moment you responded
quickly and enthusiastically to the call for registering in these courses
of study, in this detachment to cope with that enormous number of students
which was growing by the hundreds of thousands every year in the middle
level of our education system, to avoid finding ourselves in the most
absolute state of helplessness and paralyzed in our revolutionary
educational process. Then you responded "present." We know that many of the
best students said "present." And we know many cadres of the federation of
middle school students and many cadres of the youth said "present." It was
this way because it was understood that to say "present" was a duty because
the importance of this revolutionary task was understood.

From the gesture of the response and throughout the long years of study
that have elapsed since then, which for many are 5 now and for others
graduating today were 7 years of study, study combined with work, because
no one should believe that throughout those 7 years it was only study.
Throughout those 7 years they also worked. Throughout those 7 years they
also taught. Throughout those years, for every one graduating here today,
it can be said that tens of thousands have graduated and, perhaps, hundreds
of thousands of secondary school students and preuniversity students.

We know the tremendous effort you have made in all this and the
satisfaction each of you feels. There were so many students graduating this
year that there was practically no room in the Karl Marx [Theater], that it
was impossible to invite relatives. I do not know where we will conduct
commencement exercises next year. Probably it will have to be done at the
stadium or any place as big, or at the Plaza de la Revolucion. We also know
about the intimate satisfaction derived when, through one's own merits,
one's own effort, one's own sacrifice, ones own perseverance, you are able
to achieve the goals you have attained.

The responsibilities you have been assigned and the fact that comrades of
the detachment are already assuming important responsibilities in many
educational institutes are equally rewarding for many of you. I do not have
the least doubt that even though we now have professors who have
demonstrated their abilities and experiences, even though we have tens of
thousands of primary school teachers who became middle level professors,
anyone who tours our educational system in the future will find the men and
women of the Manuel Ascunce Domenech teacher detachment everywhere he goes.
[applause] They will be found in the classrooms, managing schools and in
all the positions of our party and state related to education and perhaps,
in many other tasks of the party and revolution, because just as we find
physicians in party functions, we also find many teachers exercising many
other responsibilities in our party and in our state.

This is a logical result if one takes into consideration the intellectual
level and the humane quality of our educators. Not long ago we said that
our educators, despite their intellectual responsibilities, eminently
intellectual, distinguish themselves for their proletarian spirit. We
believe this is the essence--to attain the highest technical levels, the
highest intellectual levels and at the same time the purpose, the
commitment, the idea, the modesty, the spirit of sacrifice, the struggle,
the determination and firmness of our workers. We would say that the
formula for our educators, the ideal formula, the perfect formula is to
combine the highest intellectual levels with the highest virtues of our
laborers and workers, the best and highest virtues of the proletarian
spirit. [applause]

That is what we want from our educators and, not only because of our love,
sympathy and admiration for our educators, but because it is an obligation
of our fatherland and revolution. We represent the first socialist
revolution in the Western Hemisphere, the first one. [applause] It was
carried out next door to the most powerful and richest imperialist country,
and it is mostly surrounded by oligarchic and bourgeois states which are
aggressive and hostile toward our revolution. Anyone can say that time
change at a faster or slower pace. Anyone can say that the difficulties are
many. The imperialists do not easily resign themselves to the changes in
this hemisphere which they consider to be their private property.

An eloquent proof of this is the genocide currently being perpetrated in El
Salvador, where 40, 50 or 60 persons are murdered daily merely to maintain
in power the oligarchic and reactionary system in that nation, merely
because that is the objective of Yankee imperialism and its reactionary
allies in this hemisphere. This demonstrates that the struggle is
protracted, a struggle of giants, a struggle of titans. We cannot for a
minute believe that as we reach the street corner we will find the end of
this situation, the end of imperialism, the end of the reactionary forces.

Experience tells us that it will be a protracted struggle, a struggle of
giants, a struggle of titans. I repeat, comrades, you have the
responsibility for molding those men in our fatherland, men who will be in
the midst of that struggle in all fields. You, licensees, professors,
educators, teachers, have the extraordinary and honorable mission of
educating, molding those giants, those titans.

I am sure you are aware of that mission. That is why a graduation such as
this is not one more ceremony, In reality it is an extraordinary event in
the life of our people and our revolution. Fatherland or death, we shall
win. [prolonged applause]