The other price of going back to the classroom

VILLA CLARA, Cuba. ─ Using the calculator on her phone, Arasay Medina, a mother from Villa Clara, takes out some bills to better illustrate the amount of money she must invest when her eight-year-old daughter returns to school. Explain that a pack of stockings, purchased through RevolicoThey cost him 500 pesos, 1,500 for a backpack, and he adds up the hypothetical price of a pair of shoes for which he has not yet been able to collect the necessary amount due to the high prices of these in the informal market. Without counting other articles for school use, the figure exceeds 7,000 pesos.

Arasay works on her own to take care of the young son of a friend, and is paid less than the minimum wage established in Cuba after applying the Ordinance Task.

“Before, I had a job in a private position, but I had to quit last year to take care of my daughter at home full time,” she adds. “All mothers are very concerned with the beginning of the course, not only because of the disease issue, but also because of how much it costs to keep a child in school in these times.”

At the beginning of the month, official media announced the resumption of the academic year through a grid of teleclasses to foresee a “gradual transition from virtuality to presence or blendedness.” In provinces such as Villa Clara, after vaccination in pediatric ages, students from early childhood and from first to fifth grades of primary education must join face-to-face classes from November 15 to March 12, 2022. From March and until November 2022 they will receive in 30 weeks the content necessary to endorse the next course.
During all these months with her daughter at home, Arasay has made sure that a private reviewer keeps the contents up to date. However, his greatest concern goes beyond the academic sphere.

(Screenshots / Courtesy of the author)

“School is not the same as home. Here I give him anything for a snack, but I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to prepare a bottle of soda every day with two loaves of bread. With what do I give you those two loaves? I would not want those who have more possibilities to make fun of my daughter ”.

Broadly speaking, Arasay and other mothers may seem to hyperbolize the snack issue. However, it is an unquestionable fact that after the opening of the MLC stores, products such as mayonnaise or pasta, which helped Cuban families when preparing the referred school snack, can only be acquired thanks to “collaboration” money from friends or family abroad. In the resale market itself, a package of sausages has cost more than 300 pesos and about 500 a carton of eggs. The resumption of the school year in person would mean an approximate cost of 100 to 150 pesos a day for mothers and fathers only on snacks, not counting transport, according to Arasay’s calculations.

In several social media groups, Santa Clara mothers and fathers have also expressed their concern after the announcement of the upcoming return to the classroom. “Have you already thought about how much it costs for a child to start school? In other words, any shoe, at least 5,000 CUP, backpack and lunch box for 2,500 CUP ”, user Diana Jiménez posted in the“ Santaclareando ”group. “If they only give one bread a day, if they eat breakfast, don’t have a snack. The breads from street touts are 40 pesos a jabita. If I keep doing the math, I’m going to have a heart attack ”.

(Photo: Screenshot / Courtesy of the author)

According to the own experience shared by this self-employed, a significant number of self-employed workers (TCP) were laid off due to restrictive measures decreed in the province, since many private business owners had to paralyze any activity that was not related to the manufacture or sale of food. The lack of raw materials or resources to keep some of these services running generated a high unemployment rate in the sector, in addition to the fact that most of the mothers who worked as such had to leave their jobs to take care of their children. “What good is the social security that we pay every month for TCPs, if it does not support us even in times of pandemic?” Diana posted. “Please, the Cuban State, can you tell us how we Cuban mothers do.”

Other users referred in the same publication to the shortage and high prices of products as necessary as hydroalcoholic solutions or even the nasobucos themselves to guarantee the protection of their children. On the other hand, after the transfer of almost all of the markets for sale in MLC, any possibility of buying footwear in the network of state stores was eliminated.

(Screenshots / Courtesy of the author)

If before, most of the families were able to collect from their salaries for a THABA brand backpack or a pair of the so-called “sneakers” for sale in the TRD, the price of these items far exceeds the payment of three monthly payments of any professional Cuban. Given the null supply of the state, shoes and other essential accessories to go to an educational center can only be purchased by importing travelers or residents abroad who supply these businesses in the country.

“In the special period I went to school myself with a nylon jab, but now times have changed, you won’t find any cheap pencils or erasers around,” says Mildrey, mother of two boys, aged six and nine. , who also had to give up her patent as an ice cream seller to take care of her children.

Educational center shows the vaccination schedule for primary school children (Photos: Courtesy of the author)

The announcement of a possible return to face-to-face classes has been dealt with by the Cuban media from perspectives that allude to the demand for proper sanitation in schools, the mandatory use of several nasobucos that must be changed during the school day or the reduction of the capacity of classrooms and student residences. To date, it is unknown if the Artex chain stores, the only ones that still sell in national currency, will be stocked with school supplies at affordable prices.

After a small search for buying and selling groups, Mildrey calculated that she should invest about ten thousand pesos in footwear and try to buy them before prices skyrocket for next month. “The problem is not paying for the shoes now, it is that their feet grow very quickly and then I would have to pay the same amount every five months, and I have not found any jugs. Those who take the measurements don’t think about those things. I’m going to send my girl in flip-flops to school and they won’t be able to tell me anything about it. “

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