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STETHS welcomes Cuban Ambassador

Monday, March 12, 2018

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Santa Cruz , St Elizabeth — Study and scholarship opportunities offered by the Cuban government stirred considerable interest among students of the St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) when Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica Inés Fors Fernández visited last month.

Fernández, who took on the ambassadorial role late last year, assured the students that the decades-old programme, which allows Jamaican students to attend Cuban universities was alive and well.

She said 42 young Jamaicans graduated from Cuban institutions in 2016/17 and another 55 were currently studying mostly in courses related to education and health.

Students wanted to know about the processes involved in getting a visa and whether the language barrier was a major handicap for Jamaicans studying in Cuba.

The ambassador explained that the visa process was relatively straightforward involving an application to the Cuban Embassy and an interview.

A Jamaican student, newly arrived in Cuba, would be asked to study Spanish for a year before starting regular course work, Fernández said. She also explained that scores of Cuban professionals, mostly in medicine and education, worked in Jamaica as part of government-to-government collaboration programmes.

The students were urged by the Cuban Ambassador to work hard and in a disciplined fashion to achieve their goals and serve their country.

Fernández said the experience of the Cuban people was that education was the most important element in achieving social progress. She emphasised that discipline at the individual and group level was crucial to that process.

Olivene Evans, education officer from the Ministry of Education's Region Five, praised the school leadership at STETHS for exploring study options in Cuba and elsewhere.

“The prospect of funding post-secondary education can be quite daunting, so as such the ministry supports any move, any action that will present our students with additional opportunities to achieve aspirations beyond secondary education level,” Evans said.

The students, almost all from Grade Eleven and Sixth Form, also learnt of Cuba's supportive approach to fellow Third World countries and its insistence on a proud, independent path since the Fidel Castro-led revolution of the 1950s, despite huge challenges including a trade blockade by the United States.

In response to questions from teachers, including STETHS principal Keith Wellington, Fernández explained that Cuba's consistent policy of solidarity and support for others was based on principle and goodwill to all.

For decades Cuba has vigorously supported health and education throughout Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean by sending trained doctors, teachers and other professionals to those countries which request assistance.

Three Jamaican schools: Jose Marti Technical High School, Garvey Maceo High School, and GC Foster College, were gifts from Cuba in the 1970s.

Cuba has also gained wide acclaim for its pivotal role in the liberation struggles of Southern Africa in the 1970s and 80s — suffering heavy loss of life in the process. Thousands of Cuban troops famously halted and repulsed an invasion of Angola by racist, apartheid South Africa. It was a victory which not only led to the liberation of Angola but which, analysts say, hastened the collapse of apartheid in South Africa and colonialism in the wider region.

— Garfield Myers




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