Havana U Dean on Public Education
- From: Luis A. Martin
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2003 8:37 PM
Dean of Havana U Explains Strength of Public Education
Commercialization fosters the brain flight,
warns Vela Valdes
The dean of University of Havana calls to create a united
front against it
He warns that groups that install schools of higher
education as if they were MacDonald´s,
convert education into merchandise and students into
June 30, 2003
Dean of Havana University, Juan Vela Valdes, called on the
public universities of Latin America to form a common front
against the commercial model of robbing brains, despite the
fact that those men and women received their education in
their counties of origin. Intelligence, he said, is not the
patrimony of rich nations.
Vela Valdes visited Mexico to head scientific-academic
accords between Havana University and the National
Autonomous University of Mexico (NAUM). These accords are
unique in Latin America because they enable the development
of joint doctorates in biomedical sciences and nursing which
would include the granting of an academic degree, among
other things, by both institutions.
The dean spoke about the problems that plague public higher
education in Latin America and "throughout the world in
The dean said that the power elite is the most interested in
seeing that people don't think, because "a man who thinks
can not be deceived, can not be told to vote for this or
that", he emphasized.
A principal strategy of imperialism is to strip our
countries of ideology and unity so that future generations
will not have concerns or criticisms, he said.
However, "intelligence is not a patrimony of rich nations.
Intelligence belongs to all and we are not crossing our
arms". He explained in principle some of the activities of
rich countries to foster an utilitarian education project.
One of their strategies is to "selectively drain brains". It
means, he said, the existence of a "professional exodus" of
certain careers -computers, informatics (data handling) and
engineering- toward "first world" nations, where they are
contracted to aid the infrastructure development of those
Meantime, our states lose their specialists, after "having
provided them a primary, secondary and university education,
the preparation to work for the benefit of their countries".
To do this is to "de capitalize" a nation, since a state's
principal future investment is to have a well educated
The dean pointed out that the U.S. grants 50 thousand visas
annually to informatics professionals, while Germany offers
20 thousand. The professionals leave their countries with
very high salaries and "there are brain-hunter businesses
who just wait for the person to receive a diploma to propose
them a contract in a first world country".
The dean pointed out that our countries can not compete with
the salaries and other accoutrements offered to migrant
specialists. That's why competition must be based on the
students' moral values and their ethical development to make
them appreciate the importance of working for the welfare of
their respective nations.
Another activity of the commercial model of education is "to
have large businesses that build universities".
Transnational groups dominate many private education
institutions in order to impose research projects on them.
In this way, the scientist does not conduct a project in
search of his country's benefit, but for the profit of the
business that contracted him. In this sense, he warned that
the objective of all universities created by private
initiative groups -like Kentucky Fried Chicken or
McDonald's- is to convert the public higher education
institutions into "merchandise".
Consequently, he added, this type of university will neither
create human values nor men of thoughts or ideas. Such
chains are "a mistake" in the field of education.
To combat the commercialization of education, the public
university must promote its "own thought so that a hegemonic
exoteric way of thinking will not be imposed" and higher
education will not be a matter of the elite, he insisted.
In this sense, Vela Valdes set forth the details of a new
education program in Cuba called "the universalization of
higher education", which entails the construction of
university centers in the island's 269 municipalities.
Under the premise that "there will never be an excess of
university graduates" in his country, he emphasized that
300,000 must enroll in higher education by September, since
access has been widened, specially in the humanities, as in
computing and informatics.
When the Revolution triumphed the country had 30 thousand
university graduates, half left the country, but now we have
700 thousand. We had 6 thousand doctors, but 3 thousand left
and year after year we graduated 3 thousand each. Now we
have 67 thousand, that is, one doctor for every 127 persons.
Where primary education is concerned, the leap in quality
has been enormous. Havana has one teacher for every 20
students. And all primary schools in the country have
Although "we have 900 primary schools in rural zones where
the electrical grid, which covers 93% of the country, does
not reach", electricity has been taken to those schools by
means of solar panels, so that "you have a child with his
computer in the remotest part of the mountain", he said.
Secondary education will also have a new program in
September with a double shift. A school lunch program, a
sort of reinforced snack, will be initiated. All campuses
will have a computer laboratory and the ratio will be one
teacher for every 15 students.
All that improves the quality of life for the population
will be strongly supported. Doctors, teachers and
specialists will never be in excess, because there will
always be a school, a factory or a community where they will
be needed, he said.
Lastly, Vela Valdes said that in order to confront the model
that attempts to "wipe out" higher education financed by the
state, public universities most unite in the academic and
political areas. In reference to the first, by means of
concrete actions such as publications, research and joint
events and, in the political area, by means of forming a
"common front" to defend what's ours during one of the most
difficult moments for humanity.
In this sense, he remembered "with great pleasure the call
to unity made by the Mexican intellectual Pablo González
Casanova, on May Day this year at the Plaza of the
Revolution" (in Havana).
Unity, emphasized the dean, is essential during this period
in which "if you do not think like me, you are against me".
In spite of it all, Vela Valdes says that the panorama is
optimistic, because "the way is being opened for a new
Neoliberalism has failed so badly that it has sowed a
greater conscience and options, he concluded.
Juan Vela Valdes
Dean, University of