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6 December 2007 Edition

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Health and education lessons from Cuba

Mitchel McLaughlin

Mitchel McLaughlin

I BELIEVE that if we are to reverse the deterioration in health and education delivery, North and South, the respective ministers could do worse than visit Cuba to learn from them how they tackle their many social programmes such as health and education delivery.
The approach to learning at the Sierra Maestra School for Special Needs students aged from 4 to 18-years-old in Havana is inspirational. The students are taught every aspect of skills required for independent living. While the required emphasis is put on writing, reading and maths, the students are also taught subjects such as horticulture, woodwork, electrical, domestic science and hairdressing to equip them for life’s experiences.
Neighbourhood Health Centres, where routine medical procedures are carried out free of charge and are staffed by doctors and other health professionals to meet all situations, are located in local communities.
The Havana Ophthalmological Hospital specialises in cataract operations in which Cubans are pioneers and referred to as the “miracle operation” in sight recovery. Health and education programmes – all delivered free of charge to the people, in state-of-the-art facilities – would put our systems to shame.
The Cuban International Medical Academy has over 3,000 students from Third World and other Latin American countries training – again free of charge – in all the different medical disciplines to enable them to return home equipped to provide first-class healthcare to their own people.
After witnessing first-hand the success and excellence of the Cuban health and education systems, delivered to its people free by a country struggling under the financial strains of the unjustifiable American economic blockade, I believe that our ministers would have to question the wisdom of the approach to health and education adopted by the administrations, North and South, in this country. The ministers responsible should study the Cuban models and apply here the lessons that they would no doubt learn for the delivery – free of charge – of first-class healthcare and educational excellence right through to university level.
The necessity to meet the needs of the people, improving their quality of life, ensuring the delivery of proper healthcare and education and of the highest standard possible is the driving force for the Cuban Government. Contrast the Cuban policy of exporting healthcare to some of the poorest countries in Africa and Latin America with the US administration’s blockade against Cuba and their exportation of war and repression to other regions of the world and then decide which philosophy you would prefer our governments should adopt as a model of best practice. I think I would prefer the Cubanisation of our health and education systems rather than the Americanisation (privatisation) seemingly driving the Fianna Fáil-led coalition and imposed on the Northern Executive by successive British administrations.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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