The School Fraud Epidemic in Cuba
The School Fraud Epidemic in Cuba / Ivan Garcia
Posted on October 4, 2013
Josuan, 16 years old, a second year high school student, narrowly missed
involvement in a notorious fraud case.
“A week before the news was published in the newspaper Granma, a fellow
classmate and me, we thought about purchasing the math final exam for
$12 CUC. It was an open secret that the exam was already circulating
around Havana. The tests and grades is normal”, says the student from
On June 27, the Granma newspaper, Communist Party organ, acknowledged
the existence of a massive fraud. A person who works at the printer
where the 11th grade exams were reproduced, along with two teachers from
the Arroyo Naranjo town, were accused of “removing an exam with
According to some students, the tests were being sold for between $10
and $15 CUC. Although the news was highlighted in the official
newspaper, school fraud in Cuba is symptomatic. It’s a national epidemic.
Let’s examine the cause of school fraud and its variants. Between
1970-1990, fraud was never a lucrative business. It was a procedure to
consolidate and showcase the image that Fidel Castro liked to sell of
the Cuban Revolution.
For Castro, success was a question of statistics and numbers. At the
beginning of his political discourses, without pause and from memory, he
would recite a long list of numbers, attempting to demonstrate that the
Revolution was superior to any other government that existed prior to
1959. From the low infant death rate, to the thousands of doctors
graduated annually, to the millions of professionals formed “thanks to
Education was one of the jewels in Castro’s crown. With the objective of
maintaining the enchantment of the statistics which were going up,
education at all levels lost many integers. The teachers were not judged
by the quality of their classes. They were “measured” — a jargon used in
those years to indicate the number of students who moved up to the next
It was when the education fell into “passing”. Every year, 100% of the
students, perhaps some with serious limitations would move up to the
next level. It was then, that the fraud was almost consensual.It was
disguised in many ways.
Money was not the reason. The teacher who would police the classroom
while the students took the exam would leave them alone for fifteen
minutes. Enough time for the students to check their answers with the
rest of their classmates.
Sometimes fraud was brazen. A teacher would calmly copy with white chalk
the answers on the blackboard. Another way: the day before the exam, a
review, the teacher would expose the whole exam to the students.
It was a time in which we were useful numbers to keep Castro’s
propaganda afloat. These waters have now been muddied. Cyclically, the
official press has denounced notorious cases of fraud, which freely
occur in middle and high schools.
With the advent of the “Special Period”, the country got hit with a
stagnation economic crisis that has now lasted 22 years. Salaries are
now jokes in bad taste. With the loss of value of the Cuban peso, the
quality of teaching has fallen even lower. Thousands of teacher left for
exile or deserted to better paid trades.
It’s common to see a former teacher selling ice cream or cleaning floors
in a five-star hotel. Poverty — with too many teachers without vocation
or knowledge — into which public education has now sunk, has caused
teachers to use tests in lucrative ways.
This happens from elementary to high school. “For 100 Cuban pesos
weekly, the deputy director of a school, reviewed material with the kids
before the final exams. On that exam, was all the material she
reviewed”, said the father of a student.
But if you want to see fraud in a larger scale, visit the night schools
or trade schools. “At the school where I go to get my high school
degree, for 5 CUC they sell the final exams. It’s barefaced. If you
don’t have money, they accept gifts like a perfume or a Lebron James
shirt”, said a young man.
About the gaps in grammar or simple arithmetic of the students who start
college, a college professor said: “They come with notable deficiencies.
They do not have the basic mathematics knowledge and show major
orthographic blunders. Geography or History, before taking the exams,
they learn the lessons punctually”.
Those blunders in school education, are one of the signs of thousands of
mediocre teachers and professionals. 90% of Cuban doctors that attempt
to revalidate their degrees outside the island fail. The same happens
with civil or telecommunications engineers.
Cuba is a nation of high educational indices; to talk about quality
that’s another thing.
It’s rare for a student born after the Castro Revolution not to have
engaged in fraud. If you never did it, raise your hand.
Picture – Taken from Marti News
Translated by – LYD
28 September 2013
Source: “The School Fraud Epidemic in Cuba / Ivan Garcia | Translating