I confess that I am a child of the Cuban revolution. There was never a greater moment of heart-throbbing admiration in my young life than for the men who took up arms, as Fidel Castro and his comrades had done, to free their country from the clutches of a wicked dictator. For some reason, I had always felt that history would absolve Fidel, Che and their comrades. That was before Fidel published ‘History Will Absolve Me’. Even after his recent passing, and many decades after Che was killed in the jungles of South America, the part of the Cuban revolution which sticks with me are the public marches by all age groups bearing huge six-feet long lead pencils emphasizing the revolution’s determined emphasis on education. It follows, as the night the day, and the time would come when Cuba would have an enviable national education plan for all its citizens. It was also clear that Cuba would one day produce professionals in many areas of study to help countries and peoples desirous of help. Such a successful study programme could not have borne fruit without professional and wise policy and the determined pursuit by the Cuban leadership. For those who were still uncertain whence the greatness of the Cuban people derives, UNICEF has just issued a statement which should make interesting reading for those seeking knowledge.
The UNICEF statement says that Cuba is one of 15 countries that support healthy brain development in children with three essential policies. These policies are: 1. Two years tuition-free pre-primary education; 2. Six months of paid breastfeeding breaks; 3. Six months of paid maternity and four weeks of paid paternity leave.
Such policies help to ‘lay the foundation for optimal early childhood development’ notes the report. The 15 countries with three essential national policies that support families with young children are Cuba, Belarus, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxemburg, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Sweden, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. The report also notes that around 85 million children under five live in 32 countries that do not offer such policies, including economic powers like Australia and the United States. According to the report, “These policies help parents better protect their children and provide them with better nutrition, play and early learning experiences in the crucial first years of life when the brain grows at a rate never to be repeated.”
If we have difficulty giving praise where it is due for fear of losing our visa privileges to certain ‘friendly’ countries, then perhaps we should have the courage to refuse the benefits these enlightened child-friendly policies of Cuba, France and Italy and others offer. It’s nice to see that of the countries considered as developed, France, Sweden Italy and Portugal are included in the 15 which UNICEF praises for their child health policies. There is hope for Europe, after all.
By the way, UNICEF used to mean United Nations International Children Fund; the acronym has been reduced to United Nations Children Fund. We note that Cuba is offering help to Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria even though Cuba suffered from these hurricanes. At least 39 Cuban doctors and several electricians are on stand-by to go help the people of Puerto Rico. Viva Cuba!