When North Americans discuss Cuba, they always focus the intense poverty of Cuba. I hope to provide my readers with insights into the various social programs available for the Cuban population, specifically for people with disabilities. I base this article on my experiences during my attendance at the conference against the Free Trade Agreement of the America’s and various social projects I visited around the city. The conference focused on issues regarding anti-poverty in South America, such as combating illiteracy, and implementing programs for economic development. During my two-week visit to Cuba, I observed first-hand the positive advancements made despite the poverty in Cuba.
I will skip the details of the conference against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, due to its political content. I want to focus this article on the various free and accessible social and educational institutions. The entire population can access educational programs via televisions present in every home. Information Technology colleges provide buses equipped with computers that travel around the country providing computer access and education to those living in rural communities. Of all the programs discussed during my visit, my focus remained on the programs available for the disabled.
One institution, which shared my focus, is The School for the Special Needs. The government requires the School for the Special Needs to be able to provide the same education proficiency as available in regular schools. Children who attend the school, however, range in physical and cognitive disabilities from moderate to severe. The school provides an opportunity for academically capable students to learn the skills necessary to promote their integration into the regular schools and eventual, post-secondary education. Children with more severe disabilities gain access to academic training, which the school models to their capabilities.
The school also provides various non-academic programs to insure equal opportunity in the workforce, such as the “Workship program”. Students who enter into this program must be sixteen years of age and have completed the courses at the academic level. They can be trained in the fields of handicraft, music, hospitality and more.
The director of the school informed me that employment discrimination based on disability only existed to a minimal degree because the society treats the disabled as a part of the Cuban collective. People with disabilities have equal access to employment, transportation and education. One example would be the tradition of the government-owned vehicles, which provides transportation for any citizen if needed. I believe people with disabilities would appreciate guaranteed transportation to their place of employment.
We also visited The School of Social Work, which also accommodates persons with disabilities. The school trains students to assist those suffering from poverty, abuse or imprisoned. The program places students with a family, where the student learns the specific needs and dynamics of his or her counterpart. The belief of the school and the program is that each family should receive the individual attention for the duration necessary.
The program also aids prisoners by providing education and practical employment or other academic training during their sentence. No society is perfect. Cuban society has problems including illiteracy, poverty, and a shortage of materials. Cuba, however, has attempted to rectify these situations with the various programs I have outlined in the article above.
About the Author
Kelly Green is the author of “Hill of Hope” – a book written to show the dynamic and some times complicated relationship between family members.
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