Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC


PA161433 Havana International Service in Spanish 2240 GMT 15 Jul 84

[Speech by President Fidel Castro at the Ernesto Che Guevara Pioneers
Palace in Lenin Park in Havana at a ceremony commemorating Young Pioneers
Day -- live]

[Text] [Applause] Dear pioneers and guests; I cannot ignore my duty to make
a statement. Hence, I have been thinking of ideas and things to comment on
and discuss with you.

First of all, I want to congratulate the pioneers and their organization
and the youths who presented the impressive cultural act this afternoon. It
reflects the progress of pioneers in all fields. As was said here today, we
are marking the fifth anniversary of this center's inauguration. In these 5
years new installations have been built and some progress, just a little
progress, has been made in the construction of a theater. The companero
minister of construction is here. He can help us finalize this project,
which is an indispensable, complementary aspect of the center. I hear that
the center will have a theater in operation next year. This is the only
thing missing. The swimming pools are operating; everything is operating
smoothly. In addition, new swimming pools were inaugurated in Lenin Park
today, also in homage to children.

This center has been gaining much international recognition in view of its
work, its results, and the experiences it has been accumulating, which are
also beneficial to the pioneers' palace and the rest of the country.
Therefore, the National Vanguard Commission was honored this year by
hosting the main Pioneers' Day ceremony. We must look at scientific and
technical clubs and the activities being carried out by the pioneers to
realize the importance of this institution.

It suffices to mention, for example, that it has a current membership of
more than 31,000 pioneers who participate, if memory serves, in 1,829
clubs, in 202 fields. I was forgetting a very important field that we
discussed today during our tour: computer science. Although I saw one club
-- I think it was in the east, in the interior -- the National Pioneers
Palace does not have a computer science club.

In 5 years 170,000 pioneers have worked, studied, and developed their
fields of interest in this center. It is worth noting, for example, that in
the last course attendance among the students registered was 97 percent and
among adults the [word indistinct] was 98 percent, actually a little more
than 98 percent. And according to records provided by youth companeros, 99
percent of them remained until the end. These are really high figures which
reflect why this has been declared a vanguard institution. This was not
achieved during the first year of operation The first few years attendance
registered approximately 85 percent. Figures indicate progressive work, a
perfecting of the institution. Five years later it has become a great
success. I think this should encourage the instructors and leaders of this
institution and the pioneers organization to contine working along those
lines. These figures are quite encouraging.

There are already 80 pioneer palaces in our country. Some are larger than
others, some more modern, others with new installations, others in advanced
stages of construction with a capacity for 150,000 pioneers. When one looks
at the work of these institutions, one can only regret that we do not have
more pioneer palaces.

New pioneer palaces are built each year with the aid of the peoples' power.
I understand there are 23 new ones on the drawing board. If we take them
into consideration, there will be pioneer palaces in 111 municipalities,
but many municipalities would still lack them.

Other institutions such as explorer centers have shown progress. We already
have 66 of these. Ten more are planned for next year with a capacity for
participation by 590,000 explorer pioneers. However, the operations carried
out by the explorer pioneers organization currently reaches a total of more
than 1 million pioneers. This activity, which actually started a few years
ago, has expanded and enlarged. We need more explorer pioneer centers.

We also have 23 pioneer camps to be used during vacations or for
educational-recreation activities throughout the school term. They have a
capacity for 457,000 pioneers throughout the year. They can spend 15 days
there during recreational training and 1 week during vacation breaks.

One hundred and seven sections of cultivated land [campinas] for pioneers
have also been created with the cooperation of peasant organizations. There
are a total of 276 institutions of this kind that have been created in a
relatively short period of time. We were reminded a moment ago that next
year the 10th anniversary of the city of the pioneers, the city of Jose
Marti, will be marked. Progress has been made in providing the pioneers
organization with the kinds of institutions so needed in every sense, that
complement schooling so much and that help so much to shape our youth.

We must continue to work in that direction. We think the appeals we have
made on other occasions have been among the factors contributing to the
development of these institutions

It must be stressed that we currently have 125,000 pioneer guides. It is
only just to express recognition and congratulations for the unselfish work
of those pioneer guides, who use their free time, their rest time, and
school vacation periods, etc., to work with the pioneers. Approximately 75
percent of them are teachers.

I think the institution, the organization of the pioneers, has gained a lot
with the extension of the age group from sixth to ninth grade. This can be
seen in some cultural activities. When children would distinguish
themselves in these activities they would pass to a higher level, and the
organization would lose them. By extending it 3 years, all the accumulated
experience is reflected in all the activities. The FEEM [Federation of
Mid-Level School Students] has the privilege of being heir to all the
achieved advances in culture, sports, and other activities.

It is true that these youngsters grow at a supersonic speed. Today we can
see the physical change in Cuban children due to physical education,
health, hygiene, and nourishment. It can be observed. There is a noticeable
difference in the early years in all of them. All the provinces have been
represented here today. I was saying that some grow at supersonic speeds. I
saw some who expressed greetings in the national assembly a year ago who
have now grown by about 30 percent. That is the case of Isis, who recited
here this afternoon. Not very long ago we saw her in the national assembly,
and she has grown a lot. The same is true of other companeritos, some of
whom we know and who are really quite distinguished in their activities.

It is satisfying for everyone to see the real progress we have achieved in
the years of revolution. I was thinking about what the revolution has done
for children, not only in these institutions about which we have spoken,
these pioneer institutions.

We must also think about the gigantic educational effort the revolution has
made in these 25 years, the essential beneficiaries of which have been the
children and youths of our country.

Our little pioneers, our secondary and preuniversity students, and to a
great extent, practically all the regular day students of our universities,
did not experience the prerevolutionary past. They were all born under the
revolution. Hearing words about the revolution, they know about the past
because of what school, their parents, and their grandparents tell them or
from what they read in books. But they did not experience the past. That
terrible past is still a reality in practically all Latin American and
Caribbean countries. It is a reality in a large part of the world as a
result of colonialism, neocolonialism, and capitalism. When you want a
definition of capitalism, ask what capitalism does with human beings. What
does it do with the children? What does it do with the sick? What happens
to women in capitalism? What happens to the workers and peasants? It is an
unquestionable reality expressed in the statistical data and the truly
dreadful living conditions that affect to a lesser or [greater degree the
brother peoples of this hemisphere and a large part of the countries of the
Third World. It is not only the lack of wealth, It is not only the poverty,
but the unequal distribution of wealth. One does not have to be rich. We
are not rich. One does not have to be a developed or superdeveloped country
to be able to solve many of man's problems. We have solved the vast
majority of those problems, the problems of education, unemployment, racial
discrimination, and not only social inequality but also the inequality of
women. We have eradicated all those scourges, vices, drugs, prostitution,
gambling, and the exploitation of our workers and peasants without being a
rich country. This shows that human society today has possibilities, even
without being wealthy, for solving a great part of these problems.

Think of what was done for children in the educational effort. We remember,
as has happened in other places, the high degree of illiteracy. Statistics
speak of 23 percent; I am convinced that it was much higher. It is not
known who was labeled illiterate in the 1953 census. They had possibly
learned how to sign their names and were excluded from the lists of
illiterates. Perhaps only those who could sign only with their fingerprints
were described as illiterates. Absolute illiteracy was 23 percent which
would be more than 1 million persons 10 years of age and above, and the
rest were semi-illiterate. This can be said of an individual who passed
from first to second grade and third grade. With the accumulation of
knowledge that has been developed, what does a man with a second or third
grade education know?

Hundreds of thousands of children in this situation lacked schools and
teachers, despite the fact that the population was smaller than it is now.
Between the ages of 6 and 16, approximately 50 percent of the children
attended schools. When the revolution began, the first thing done was to
create 10,000 classrooms for 10,000 jobless teachers. Ten thousand
classrooms were created because the need for teachers and classrooms was
great. This was the first thing the revolution did.

We carried out literacy campaigns, another colossal effort. Then
institutions were created for adult education, for laborer-peasant
education, etc. When we set out to guarantee that there would not be
`children without schools and teachers, we found that we did not have
enough teachers. It was necessary to improvise teachers, to bring in
students, workers with some level of education, give them training in
education, and put them to work teaching. In those times, the number of
elementary school students increased greatly, but the number of high school
and preuniversity students was still small, that is the number of students
at the mid-level.

There were no masses of children and adolescents with the sufficient
preparation to enter these schools. We can made a comparison. Before the
revolution, 85 percent of the students enrolled were in elementary schools,
from grades one through six. That is, not only were half of the children
and adolescents between 6 and 16 not attending school, lacking schools, but
among those who attended schools 85 percent were in elementary schools, and
some 15 percent were in junior high and high school. At this time, with
1,390,000 elementary students, only 49 percent of the enrollment in schools
is of elementary students, and 51 percent of the total enrollment is in
high school or university. This means approximately 44 percent more in the
high school level, and 7 percent in the university enrollment. A tremendous
jump in the quality of education has taken place. We now have a large
number of students in the middle levels and in the higher levels.

According to statistics, we have between ages 6 and 12, 973 percent
enrolled in schools. Some 2.7 percent are still missing and we ask
ourselves the reasons. Why is it that only 97.3 percent appear enrolled,
with all the efforts that we are making, with the efforts made by the mass
organizations [words indistinct] if the statistics are not mistaken because
there were some statistics around that said that the United States has 100
percent enrollment. One hundred percent? With the number of poor
neighborhoods, outcast neighborhoods in the United States? With the social
problems, with the number of abandoned children in that country? It seems a
little strange.

I think that data claiming 100 percent in the 6 to 12 age-group level has
to be proven and studied in-depth when we know the tremendous social
problems that exist in that country, with the minorities, the black
population, the millions of Mexicans, Chicanos, many times persecuted and
exploited. I ask myself if this data is included in official U.S.
statistics. We have made a tremendous effort. We have no indigent
neighborhoods, no outcast neighborhoods, no discrimination, and even in the
remotest corner of the mountains there is a classroom, a teacher. Even in
areas where the people are isolated there is sometimes a teacher with only
six or seven students. I know of three, and I have heard of a teacher paid
by the state who teaches her own children: a school formed by a family, and
the mother has become a teacher, a teacher paid by the state. The state has
in no way prevented placement of a teacher with only five, six, or seven
students. That is why I have this question. If we include those who cannot
go to school because of sickness or any other reason, but it is data that
has to be studied in-depth and compared, so that no one will try to deceive
us with statistics. I am no longer speaking of the rest of the

Manipulated figures? We never manipulate figures here. On the contrary, we
are very strict with data. We have 97.3 percent enrollment, and between the
ages of 3 and 16 we currently have more than 84 percent. I am not sure if
it is 84.4 percent, approximately, in the 13-16 age group.

Other institutions have been created for problems that received no
attention before the revolution in our country, none whatsoever, such as
the need for institutions for children with mental, physical, or other
handicaps. Today our country has an enrollment of 40,000 children in those
schools, called special schools, which are so important and which resolve
such human problems. It is not easy for a blind child to endure the vision,
hearing, or other problems, and there should be a truly human, solidary,
just school to take care of those children. We have a good number of such
schools with an enrollment of 40,000 children and almost 10,000 teachers;
almost 10,000 teachers working in these schools. In other words, there is
approximately one teacher per four students. The state has not spared
resources of any kind.

Throughout these years we have been training the professors for these
schools, which in my opinion have extraordinary social and human importance
These institutions did not exist before the revolution.

Professional and technical teaching was virtually nonexistent; there were
only a few schools. Today we have more than 600 schools. I believe there
are 612 professional and technical training schools; 600 and some with an
enrollment which I think is 312,000 children. I think there are 602 schools
with 312,000 students of professional and technical training. These did not
exist before. We have approximately 170,000 to 180,000 preuniversity
students. Fernandez should know with more exactness. Approximately 170,000
preuniversity students.

Basic secondary schools have been created in the countryside, preuniversity
schools in the countryside, vocational schools. In the future they will
take a qualitative leap to become preuniversity vocational schools, which
today are for secondary and preuniversity students, with a capacity for
24,000 students. This will allow us to place more emphasis on preparing
those youths who excel in their studies and are called upon to join in
teaching higher education. Schools were created for physical education
professors, for professors of health technology. Before the revolution
100,000 [corrects himself]...100 nurses graduated each year. We currently
have 28,000 people studying nursing and health technology. We created
teaching schools, education schools, art vocational schools. We saw one of
the children from the Matanzas group, which has a dance school, working and
acting here. We do not have these institutions in all the provinces yet,
but we will.

We created the Camilo Cienfuegos Vocational Schools for all those who are
inclined toward the military, where future cadres of our Armed Forces are

We recently created the first preuniversity institute of exact sciences,
whose students are the best in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. I
believe that enrollment in this school increased from 300 to 600 last year.
Next year one more will be created in central part [of the island] and a
third one in the Province of Oriente. The university faculties have been
expanded from three centers with an enrollment of 15,000 students, which I
might add were very few in the technical and scientific fields before the
revolution, to 222,000 students now. Instead of 3 we have 43,000 university
centers and 16,000 professors at this level; from 15,000 to 16,000, 1,000
of whom already have a scientific title.

We have university faculties in all provinces of the country, including the
special municipality of the Isle of Youth: enormous, extraordinary
activities for all the children, all the adolescents and youths of the
country. We recently created centers for youths who graduate from military
service who had not previously had the opportunity to enroll in higher
education to prepare to enter the university. We have several of these
schools showing very good results. Next term we will have 9 schools, with a
capacity for 6,000 [corrects himself]...600 students, converted into this
type of school in the countryside, and more than 5,000 students who leave
military service, will have a new opportunity to enroll in higher
education. And how magnificent it is that these youths, who have great
discipline, great political training, a great patriotic awareness, join our
universities in increasing numbers. From a few schools with 20 some fields
of study, at the university, we now have 98 career fields.

Scholarships were created for students, the ones for university students
first. At the present time, of 86,000 university students, 35,000 are
scholarship students.

In total, between scholarship students who board and those who receive room
and board, there are more than 1 million who receive services and food for
free. There are approximately 600,000 students who receive room and board
whose expenses are paid by the state.

In only the past 13 years we have invested approximately 2 billion pesos in
the construction of schools and laboratories. During that same period we
published 270 million textbooks. Not only normal schools [escuelas de
maestros] were created in practically all provinces during this period, but
also teachers schools [escuelas pedagogicas] at the university level in all
provinces. We were able to solve the situation of approximately 14 or 15
years ago when 70 percent of teachers did not have degrees. Today 100
percent of the teachers have degrees. We now have a reserve of teachers,
and 3,600 high school and elementary school teachers are helping in more
than 20 countries.

We created systems to promote the development of teachers. We even created
a university degree in primary school teaching so that in the near future
all our primary schools will have teachers with these degrees. In other
words, we will have teachers who are university graduates, with a higher
degree and the experience they have been accumulating all these years.
Approximately 280,000 students have graduated from normal and teachers'
schools at the university level. That doesn't mean that this is the total
number of teachers we have. The teacher and professor is a very appreciated
technician who is constantly offered other tasks in mass and party
organizations. This isn't bad we are happy to see that teachers are so
highly regarded in our society, in activities of the peoples' government,
in administrative activities, and so forth.

We currently have 285,000 professors and teachers. This is a truly
impressive figure. We don't know how many we had when the revolution
triumphed. We have 258,000 professors and teachers at various levels.
Approximately 100,000 of them are studying to improve themselves. There is
a total of approximately 150,000 individuals, including students of normal
schools and professors and teachers, who are improving themselves. All of
this results in increasingly greater efficiency in the educational system
and a better quality of education.

About 13 or 14 years ago there was a large number of children whose ages
did not correspond to their school level. In 1970 this figure represented
approximately 36 percent. Today, the percentage of children behind their
grade level is 11 percent. There are some students who are ahead of their

The extension of the double session [morning and afternoon] is an important
problem that we must solve in the next few years. There are provinces such
as the City of Havana Province which already have more than 90 percent of
their students in the double school session. Matanzas also has a high
percentage, and the Isle of Youth has a 100 percent figure, a true 100
percent figure. There isn't a single student there who isn't under the
double session system.

Efforts and investments are being made to reach the 100 percent figure for
the double session system in both primary and secondary schools, at least
in the cities. The double session problem is more difficult to solve in
areas in the mountains where the people are very isolated.

All these efforts have been translated into results and indicators which
are truly impressive For example, apart from the 1.5 million adults who
completed the sixth grade, 3,250,000 students graduated from sixth grade.
Approximately 1,275,000 graduated from basic secondary school.

More than 1 million completed the preuniversity level, and 171,000
completed the university. Of these, 15,000 graduated as agronomists,
agricultural engineers, and other specialties, that is 15,000 engineers in
the various agricultural specialties. A total of 22,000 graduated in
medical sciences. Of these, 18,500 graduated as medical doctors and the
rest as stomatologists. Some 25,500 graduated in high-level technological
fields and more than 60,000 in high-level pedagogical carreers out of the
289.000 [figure as heard] who graduated. These are truly impressive

They will of course continue to grow, above all if we bear in mind the
number of preuniversity and university students we have.

Approximately 100,000 workers are university students. A large number of
them are teachers who worked for more years to perfect the education system
and are constantly working. In other words, we are continuing to improve
the quality of education.

The figure I mentioned of graduates in just 25 years is triple those we had
before the revolution in almost 70 years, from the alleged independence to
1959. We have every possibility because we now have qualified personnel and
research centers to improve limitlessly the quality of our education. This
is part of what the revolution has done for our children and adolescents
who, fortunately, did not experience the past. Not only that, but the
conditions of social justice, equality, and dignity with which these
children grow today. [sentence as heard] This can be perceived in contacts
with them, in discussion groups held here -- their personality,
preparation, and maturity. This is the reflection of a social environment
that is not yet perfect, which we will see improving, but which is
radically [different] from the social environment in which children and
young people grew and were educated in the past. What the revolution has
done is to guarantee to the children and young people all the opportunities
for studying and working in accordance with their talent, will, and
capacity; to guarantee them not only a preparation but a decent job; to
guarantee them the unlimited possibilities to develop individual abilities.
What society can offer this except a socialist society? The revolution has
created these conditions for society in general, but especially for the
children and young people.

Not only that, but the conditions of health and security under which they
grow, because having reduced the infant mortality, preschool-age mortality,
and teenage mortality rates to levels that are among the first, or are the
first, among all Third World countries means that the lives of tens and
tend of thousands of children have been saved. [sentence as heard]

The mortality rate has been reduced to 16.8 percent and will be further
reduced, even though there is less margin now than when it was up to 60 or
70 [presumably percent] or one does not even know how much. The statistics
prior to the revolution are not trustworthy either. Many children were born
but no one registered them; they were rot registered anywhere. When there
were epidemics, especially in the rural areas, thousands of children died;
but nobody knows for sure how many. It is said that it was 60 [presumably
percent], but who believes in those statistics? The revolution has managed
to lower this rate to less than 17 percent, as well as the rates of
preschool-age and school-age mortality. The institutions created, the
specialists trained all these years, the specialized pediatric hospitals,
the intensive therapy room that exists in every pediatric hospital in this
country, the efforts that continue to be made in this direction, the
possibilities of obtaining electricity, running water, and sewer systems,
and the hygienic conditions that have been gradually created for the people
also contribute to the development and health of children.

A big effort has also been made in the area of physical education and
sports. A total of 17,800 mid-level physical education teachers have
graduated during these years, as well as 2,300 higher-level ones. This
category of teacher practically did not exist in the past. We now have
6,000 sports facilities of various kinds and new ones are being built.

Thousands of arts instructors have been trained, and from the early years
of the revolution this has been manifested in the tens of thousands of
amateur groups among the children, teenagers, and mid-level and university
students. Advance has been made not only in the field of teaching, of
technical and professional training, and of general education, great
advances have also been made in the areas of culture and sports. Expenses
have not been curtailed, and this is reflected in the educational budget,
which exceeds 1.6 billion pesos a year, as compared to 79 million pesos
prior to the revolution, a large part of which, naturally, was stolen. All
these figures reflect a lot more, many more times, than what was available
at the time of the triumph of the revolution in a past which, I repeat,
these children and these teenagers fortunately neither experienced nor will
experience. [applause]

And they express it in their songs, poetry, and discussion groups. This is
what gives content to the patriotic and revolutionary feelings of our
people, children, adolescents, and youths, or of those who knew this past
and who are conscious of what it meant to us and now means to so many
people, to the world. They know that a country that has known dignity,
sovereignty, and freedom, that a country which has achieved these conquests
can never again be submitted to the imperialist, capitalist yoke, to the
exploitation of man by man.

These things are in the conscience, in the heart of everyone, every Cuban
-- this must be said -- every youth, every adolescent, every child. We must
also develop defense groups, and they must learn to handle weapons -- sad
need, sad duty that is imposed by imperialism.

However, the things I mentioned -- to name just a few -- are the things
that give sense, meaning, content to our political positions, to our
revolutionary positions, to our patriotic positions, and to our
internationalist positions. Because this people, who emerged from that past
during which conditions for man to feel respected or to respect himself did
not even exist, during which patriotism was almost forgotten, are the same
people whose children, whose daughters and sons, are expressing by the
thousands, by tens of thousands, by hundreds of thousands, and even by the
millions, without hesitation, 25 years later, their readiness to fulfill
any internationalist mission, and they express this not only in words but
in deeds, as history has demonstrated during these past years. [applause]

We arc not rich, I repeat. We are not yet a country which can call itself
economically or industrially developed according to the indicators required
to be called an industrialized country, but we have developed greatly in
the social, political, and cultural fields. We are ahead of the developed
capitalist countries in the social field. [applause] We are not so in the
industrial field yet, but we will be. We have shown what can be done
without much wealth.

We are conscious of the fact that we have created a new world, and these
children, these pioneers, are the best example of this new world. We know
and see that we are still a long way from being able to speak of
perfection. No matter how great the work of the revolution may be, we have
no right whatsoever to feel, nor do we feel satisfied with what we have

Eternal nonconformity must be one of our banners of struggle, because when
we attain something, we know how much more can be attained. [applause]

And if things have been done well, it is a known fact that they can still
be done much better. And if they have been done badly, they must be
rectified, perfected, and done well, or better. However, we are very much
aware of the fact that we are immersed in the task of creating a new world;
that many more things can be done better. We have this conviction, this
hope, and when we speak of more and better things we are thinking above all
of what these children, these adolescents, these youths will do. It will be
their duty.

They will begin with many more advantages than we had; with much more
culture, education, scientific knowledge, and technical knowhow; with many
more organizations, institutions and organizations that did not even exist
in the past, when we began creating our party, our mass organizations, and
institutions of all types -- worker, peasant, womens, student, pioneers,
and neighborhood institutions. The social institutions encompass various
sectors of the population.

They will begin with all the schools we did not have then. They are
graduates of elementary schools, secondary schools, and junior colleges
[ensenanza media superior] as well as hundreds of thousands of university
graduates; thousands and tens of thousands of technicians and scientists
who work in the research centers and institutions created by the

They will begin with all the culture they reflect, with the full
conscientiousness they have today, which our people did not have in the
past; with their optimism, patriotism, joy, conscience, optimism [Castro
repeats himself], and youthfulness. They will be able to go far, very far.
They have thanked us for the work done by the revolution, and we also give
them thousands of thanks for the profound hope they instill in us.
Fatherland or death! We will win, [applause]