Students question if Venezuela stopped Spanish classes because of Jamaica's vote

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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CHARGÉ d'Affaires at the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Luisa Gutierrez is moving to address concerns raised about the sustainability of the two-year Spanish programme at the Venezuelan Institute for Culture and Cooperation (IVCC).

The concerns were raised by some students enrolled in the programme who told the Jamaica Observer that there has been little information given on classes that have not been held since exams ended in November last year.

The students, enrolled in the basic and intermediate classes, expressed concerns that the ongoing turmoil in Venezuela might have contributed to the suspension of classes, though nothing formal has been communicated to indicate this.

In e-mail correspondence sent to the Observer, dated January 15, 2019, the IVCC told students that classes would resume on January 21 and 22. On January 18, 2019, the institution sent a subsequent e-mail indicating that there would be no class on the 21 and 22 as previously stated.

“This is due, in part, to the unexpected passing of our caretaker. We ask for your understanding and that you give us some time to regroup and reorganise ourselves. We will let you know when classes will resume as soon as a decision has been made,” the IVCC said in the e-mail.

The institute has not communicated with students since.

“I've been waiting to hear from the institute for a few months now because we were supposed to start back in January. They informed us of a setback. I think, as a student, I have been patient. Yes, it's a scholarship programme, but I had a timeline I was working with in terms of goals I'm trying to achieve. So it is like I'm in limbo right now because I don't know if I'm supposed to start another programme or continue to wait on them,” said one student.

“We were given a reason as to why we had to wait before restarting the programme, but I'm beginning to wonder now if Jamaica's situation with Venezuela and the steps being taken by the Jamaican Government are having an impact on the institute deciding whether or not to continue with the programme,” said another student, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another student also reasoned that Jamaica's decision to side with the United States over Venezuela on local issues affecting the latter could be the reason for the classes not being held.

“I am grateful for the opportunity that was given to me by the Venezuelan Government. However, I think it is unfortunate that the institute has not seen it fit to communicate with us after so long. I am aware of the issues currently affecting their country. I am also aware of the position Jamaica has taken against Venezuela. I believe this is the real reason there are no classes going on now, but no one will come out and say it. If it is, Jamaica has shot itself in the foot,” said the student, who asked not to be identified.

A third student expressed disappointment about the situation and said if classes do not resume all that has happened so far has been a grand waste of time.

“A foolishness this. At least tell wi. Mi stop wait fi see if class a go still keep. If them explain the situation mi nuh think so much people would a vex,” the student said.

The IVCC is the cultural branch of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

This is a non-profit institute whose main objectives are to teach Spanish to the residents of the island and familiarise them with Venezuelan culture and values.

The institute has been offering complimentary Spanish classes and some other language-related activities in Jamaica for over 30 years.

When the Observer spoke with Gutierrez by telephone, the newspaper was told that classes for basic and intermediate students were not being held because of a lack of resources and not because of any conflict between Jamaica and Venezuela.

Gutierrez said since the institute began operation 45 years ago it has withstood several obstacles, including sanctions against Venezuela.

She said the Spanish programme has benefited many, including the batch of students who graduated in February.

She said classes for advanced students are being held and that as soon as the institute reorganises itself classes will resume.

“I didn't get resources to do all the levels [but] we will overcome with the only free programme that Jamaica has to teach Spanish. There are many good things Venezuela has done for Jamaica. It's not about the vote against Venezuela; it is just administrative issues. We are overcoming many challenges,” she said.

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