Escuela Vocacional Lenin, Cuba

Vocational Lenin: from glory to abandonment

Havana Cuba. — On January 31, 1974, the dictator Fidel Castro and the then General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, inaugurated the Vocational Pre-University Institute of Exact Sciences “Vladimir Ilyich Lenin”whose objective was to train students of a high scientific level, linking study and work, while applying modern teaching methods in order to promote research.

For decades, Lenin has graduated high school graduates with high academic performance who, in most cases, end up becoming excellent professionals. She has also been one of the pillars of Castro’s propaganda, presenting her as one of the “achievements of the Revolution” to honor Fidel Castro’s maxim that Cuba would be a country of “men of science”.

The fame of the school was well deserved in other times. The vocation for science was rigorously stimulated and for years it maintained a faculty of luxury professors, until the ravages of successive economic crises and their consequent exoduses had an equal impact on vocational institutes, which had always been considered privileged.

Lenin has also seen its enrollment decrease and its teachers emigrate. Living and eating conditions have drastically worsened. Of that educational center inaugurated with great fuss, which was the personal pride of Fidel Castro and the thousands of his graduates, only a couple of functional buildings remain; while neglect spreads through its teaching, rest, recreational and sports areas.

Today the vocational pool is used to celebrate soccer matches, the green areas remain neglected, leaks abound, and several structures are in danger of collapsing.

The rugged indoctrination of yesteryear has given way to the practical, down-to-earth mindset of today’s teens. Given the regime’s inability to provide decent food, parental visits to bring food and trinkets to their children have become more frequent, and with them the iron discipline—almost military—of other times has disappeared.

Despite the decline of Lenin and other similar institutes, adolescents who have remarkable intelligence and a desire to study continue to bet on enrolling in vocational schools, since there they receive the most complete preparation possible in the midst of the debacle of Cuban education. However, and about to celebrate half a century of foundation, the glory of the Lenin only lives in the memory of those who studied or taught there a long time ago.

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