Monday, September 18, 2006


Best Health System in the World?

Best Health System in the World, referring to Cuba may sound chavinist and exxagerated coming from a local, but used by the British media, the true dimension is clearly understood.

On the issue of how Britain delivers essential services, Newsnight of the BBC invited guest reporters to argue the case for the most interesting, innovative and thought provoking examples of public service provision in the world.

John Harris of the Guardian travelled to Cuba to examine its health system, only to discover that the country has achieved extremely impressive healthcare indicators, primarily by focusing on prevention and establishing doctor and nurse teams at the heart of the local community.

He found that even if the person has a clean bill of health, the local physician will still pay the person a visit once a year to check on your lifestyle and home environment.

As John Harris reported, Cuban leader Fidel Castro is recovering after illness forced him to temporarily delegate his government and party responsibilities. "He is lucky to be able to count upon some of the best healthcare in the world", said the journalist.

I worked in London for a year and a half as correspondent for Prensa Latina. While there, the doctor I subscribed to was a fervent admirer of our health service. That´s when I really started to appreciate it. As he looked at an X-ray of my mother´s femur operation, he said in Britain could not have been done better.

Nevertheless, I extolled the British health system for being one of the patterns taken as example for the Cuban system. He told me in confidence that had been true at the beginning but really deteriorated fast under Margaret Thatcher´s rule. Privatization started eliminating the benefits of universal medical attention and prevention ceased to be a priority.

As for education, the Newsnight highlighted Qatar and its innovative system. John Harris could have also evaluated the island for that public service, as it has been awarded by UNESCO for its method of teaching illiterates.

The method Yes, I can, currently used in dozens of countries from Central America to New Zealand, using local teachers, in their national languages through 65 classes of 30-minute duration each has already taught 1.9 million people to read and write in 15 countries and is now underway for 2.3 million in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific, is due to expand to five more nations.

The other public services reviewed by Newsnight were prisons and transport. The places highlighted were Denmark and Portland, Maine in the United States, respectively.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Two Ways of Getting a College Education

Cuban students have the privilege of having access to university careers whatever their social standing, they must simply have the aptitude and knowledge required by the specific field chosen.

Six hundred thousand of them started classes on Monday; double the proportion in any Latin American country. They were all given the books, pencils, notebooks and markers necessary for the school year, complete for the first time in decades, due to sufficient resources available.

According to William Chace, former college president in California, for most of the students graduating from their careers today in the US, diplomas accompany a substantial debt of $20,000 dollars on average, whether for private or public institutions.

This fall, says Chace in an op-ed contribution to The New York Times Tuesday, tuition plus room and board average almost $32,000 for Laudable and other private colleges, and more than $15,000 for public ones.

This year Laudable will spend more than $41,000 to educate each student. At public institutions, it will be more than $31,000 per student. Some schools have huge endowments that help them generate the money they need to educate students (Harvard has more than $26 billion to count on). But most schools are like Laudable, they need students´ tuition dollars.

On the side of universities´ management, most don´t have enough government or private endowment money and rely on tuition income to function. Financial aid is also not enough for many students who must take odd jobs to make ends meet. It´s all about money.

Here in Cuba, it´s all about learning. Although the island is still underdeveloped in the economic sense, it manages to open its higher education centers to foreign students by extending scholarships which have only one condition, that of returning to their countries and contributing to their development.

Cuban higher education reports more than 620,000 new registrations in different academic fields, at 3,000 municipal universities in the country's 169 municipalities.

From a scientific-technological viewpoint, Cuban universities have managed to raise the quality of research despite the deterioration accumulated over several years in biological, chemical, physical, and pharmaceutical laboratories. Academic institutions and research centers within higher education received 32 awards from the Cuban Academy of Science, mainly in the areas of energy and biotechnological development.

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