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A real policy for childhood and adolescence in Cuba

The Island is advancing, with many challenges and efforts, ensuring the future of children and young people, protected by laws and practices, something unachievable in pre-revolutionary times lacking in schools, teachers, vaccines, hospitals and doctors for all.


Photo: Pixabay

Marta Denis Valle


The transformation of the sad reality of the childhood and youth of the past represents one of the greatest achievements of Cuban social policy in the last 60 years and, at the same time, a resounding triumph of the Revolution that guarantees its continuity.

The Constitution of the Republic of Cuba prohibits girls, boys and adolescents working, and all children have equal rights, and societies and families are responsible for their education.

In the neo-colonial Republic (1898-1958) there were large estates and monocultures, gambling in casinos, gunmen and repressive bodies, and the US embassy gave the orders.

It was a time of very poor peasants who saw their children die on the side of the roads, without the possibility of medical assistance and timely hydration to save them from gastroenteritis. It was a time when poliomyelitis caused 300 invalids or deaths among Cuban children every year and diphtheria affected 600 children annually.

Each year too many children also died as a result of measles and neonatal tetanus.

Street children, barefoot, struggling to survive by working as bootblacks or newspaper sellers, travelled by hanging from the outside the buses and didn’t have a better future in sight in a society where more people were unemployed than in work.

Havana, a mecca of local gangsterism and the foreign mafia, dazzling, full of neon signs, many in English, greeted the visitor, denying the misery of the majority of its inhabitants.

It was also a time of the sick and beggars at the doors of churches and hospitals, where the mutilated crawled on the pavement in search of public charity.

At the time of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks on 26th July 1953, only 56.4% of children could attend primary school and 28% of children and young people, between 13 and 19 years old, managed to continue their studies in middle schools.

And according to the Population Census carried out that year, one million people (23.6% of the adult population) were illiterate, 11% and 41.7% in the urban and rural sectors, respectively.

But since the revolution, great efforts have been made in favour of education and also of health.

The State guarantees that education services will be free, affordable and of quality for comprehensive education, from early childhood to postgraduate university education.

Currently it allocates 23% of the budget to the educational sector (10% of the Gross Domestic Product), in correspondence with the Cuban policy of offering an inclusive, free and quality education.

This principle, which has been defended since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, changed the disastrous condition of childhood and the country guarantees education to the full school age.

From 1959 to the 2017-2018 academic year, Cuba graduated a high number of university students, in Pedagogical, Medical, Social and Humanistic Sciences, Technical and Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Agriculture, Economics, Physical Education and Art.

Likewise, public health is a right of all people and the State guarantees access to free and quality care, protection and recovery services.

For this reason, there is a health system at all levels, accessible to the population, and prevention and education programmes are developed.

Created in 1962, the National Immunization Program initially fought polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and a clinical form of tuberculosis.

The population is currently protected from 13 diseases by completely free vaccines, polio has been eliminated and all Cubans under 71 are protected. This year, 61,291 children were immunized. (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin – Email: Photos: Pixabay

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