Cuba travelogue: schools

So, some pictures and a few words about another interesting thing we got to see a bit of on our trip to Cuba last autumn — the school system.

Waiting for the bus

We were able to see a few schools, either outside or inside or both. But mostly, we saw schoolkids — note the uniforms, they’re color-coded.

Walking home

The way it was explained to us, white tops / colored shorts or skorts are mandatory. The kids wear maroon when in primary school (roughly elementary school in the U.S.), a mustard yellow in secondary school (Middle School / High School), and blue when in vocational school. The scarves are either blue or maroon, uniformly to a class, but with no apparent meaning behind the color choice.

I can only imagine the stress of Cuban parents struggling to keep their younger kids’ white shirts from showing the stains that little ones so easily pick up while playing.

Havana primary school

Primary schools in cities don’t seem to get separate structures — the ones we came upon were tucked into the ground floor of any of a variety of buildings.

Rural school

By comparison, in rural areas the schools are pretty easy to spot — low-slung, Cuban flag out front, a small front yard for the kids to stretch out in.  We briefly glimpsed the school above, as our bus was taking us along a highway — it’s only a few feet from surrounding homes, no zoning here!

Escuela Primaria

But this particular school is on a tour route, so we (and heaven only knows how many other visitors every year) got to go inside for a quick visit.

A good pioneer

In case you couldn’t make out the text on the front of the school, it’s a quick summary of good student behavior.

A good pioneer:

Correctly uses their uniform

Takes care of their books

Doesn’t commit fraud

Studies every day


Struggling to Focus

The inside of the primary school is plain but clean and functional — two classrooms, each with tables, a blackboard, some books along the back wall (not visible in this shot), a TV for some educational programming. The textbooks we were able to see were less ideological than I would have expected — sure, they told the government’s perspective on the Cuban revolution, but most covered the usual language and science topics you’d see in early grades anywhere.  Surprisingly, we didn’t see many photos of current Cuban political leadership in the schools — but there were a number of photos of revolutionary figures (not conceptually so different from the graphics of American Revolution figures in U.S. schools).

We drove by a few secondary schools and colleges, too — the ones we saw (too briefly to get a good photo) were designed to the same Brutalist aesthetic some schools in the U.S. loved back in the 1970s.