Jamaicans studying in Cuba need helpTuesday, August 03, 2021
I am a Jamaican student studying in Cuba. I prefer not to mention my name to avoid possible consequences that could result from this e-mail. I am also using a fake e-mail address.
I would like to highlight some of the things that the Jamaican students have been facing since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
We were told at the beginning of the pandemic that personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, hand sanitisers, etc) were being sent to Cuba for the students as these items were not readily available in Cuba at the time. A year has passed and we are yet to receive such items.
We have been asking the ministry for assistance for over a year and have yet to receive any. We asked if our parents could put together packages for us with the ministry facilitating the shipment, but it seemed that could not be done, for no apparent reason. We asked that our stipend, which was reduced, be increased; that was also not done. I don't think we even received a response about that.
Many other Caribbean countries have delivered packages to their students in Cuba; some of them on more than one occasion. Some of the cargo ships even stopped in Jamaica before going to Cuba. These students have received boxes and barrels. Recently, a Caribbean country facilitated the shipment of one barrel to each of its students. Another shipped two barrels to each of its students. The only thing the parents did was pack the barrels or boxes. Packages have been delivered from as far as Africa. Jamaica is 30 minutes or 1.5 hours (depending on where you are going) away from Cuba, yet this could not be done.
Last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told us that they could facilitate the shipment of 10lb packages to each student but, of course, we would have to pay. Some students took advantage of this opportunity due to desperate needs, however, these items are yet to reach Cuba.
Recently, the minister of foreign affairs stated that 50 students received packages and help was given etc, etc. This is a lie. No student received help from the ministry in this aspect. A few students and parents organised cargo with a shipping company in Jamaica a few months ago. Each batch contained packages for 10 students and there were nine batches in total.
After many weeks of delay, the first batch was finally sent off, but when it reached Cuba it could not be cleared because we should have put a student's name on the shipment and not that of the embassy because we were not allowed to receive diplomatic or humanitarian packages. The students, whose packages were in this first batch, paid thousands of dollars to have these packages sent to Cuba.
All we are asking is for the Government to facilitate a shipment of items from our parents – even if it's one barrel. I don't think we are asking for too much, especially given the proximity of Jamaica to Cuba.
It is very hard in Cuba, a lot of basic necessities are not available. The Cuban Government tries their best to provide for all students but they can only do so much and no more, and for that we are grateful, but we need help. Under normal circumstances this would have been an issue that could be easily brushed aside, but we are in a pandemic.
We feel as though our Government does not value us, but we are expected to work and complete our bond when we complete our studies. How could one look forward to this after being treated this way? I really do hope that the Government will hear our cries.
Student in need