NUT welcome Cuban teacher to annual conference
Campaign News | Tuesday, 7 April 2015
Over eighty delegates attended the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and Venezuela Solidarity Campaign fringe meeting, chaired by NUT International Officer Dave Harvey, at the 2015 National Union of Teachers (NUT) Conference in Harrogate.
Gertrudis Simon Pineda, from the SNTECD (National Union of Education, Science and Sport workers in Cuba), spoke of the achievements in education that the revolution has made, from the eradication of illiteracy in 1961 to the current day where Cuba is a world leader in education.
She praised the NUT for their internationalism, including teaching English to Cuban health workers, many of whom ended up going to West Africa following the Ebola outbreak.
In light of the recent shift in US-Cuba relations and the continuation of the blockade, she said:
“I am sure that the Cuban culture of consolidating our Independence will remain strong - we are not enemies of the American people but we must stand firm, as they are only 90 miles away and some people in the US have always wanted to control our island.
“Obama has moved in the right direction - but banks who carry out transactions with Cuba with Cuba are continuing to get fines of millions of dollars for doing so.
“Education materials have to be brought from far away as we still cannot trade with the US or many nearby countries which results in materials costing a lot more - the blockade is still very much in place.”
She ended her speech with a call for solidarity with Venezuela and for the US to remove the Executive Order on the country.
Marcos Garcia from the Venezuelan Embassy also voiced the need for solidarity in light of the ‘National Security threat’ implemented by Obama. He said a big demonstration from people from all over Latin America is planned for the upcoming Summit in Panama to show that the region is “no longer the US’s backyard.”
Philipa Harvey, NUT President, spoke of how Cuba’s commitment to education has been “truly concrete” by spending the highest share of GDP on education in the world, creating a free and universal education system and hugely popular free adult education. As a result of such progressive policies, women have been hugely empowered in Cuba, she said; “I’m proud of the NUT for showing so much support and solidarity with Cuba”.
Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary, recalled details of her visit to Cuba during the 50th year of the Revolution where she saw first-hand “the wonderful work in schools and the amazing achievements the Cubans have made, despite the blockade.”
The NUT and Christine Blower had shown exemplary support for the Miami Five during their 16 years of unjust imprisonment, which Blower called a “stain on the international community that they were locked up for so long.” She gave praise to the CSC organised Vigils for the Five outside the US Embassy many of which she had spoken at over the years.
Christine cited the cruel nature of the blockade with the recent example of the Cuban health workers in West Africa fighting the Ebola outbreak having their payments from the World Health Organisation blocked by the US.
“We need to redouble our efforts to repeal the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts in the US. The blockade needs to be defeated from a moral point of view, if not from a legal one”, she said.
Bernard Regan, CSC National Secretary, ended the meeting with an update from the campaign, including the latest on Rene González’s visa appeal, which is currently going through the stages of appeal, and has the support of many MPs.
Bernard Regan received a new award at the Conference, the Steve Sinnott International Solidarity Award, established to recognise NUT members who have made outstanding contributions to international solidarity.
Christine Blower said: “The Steve Sinnott International Solidarity Award celebrates the great work our members do to build solidarity around the world. This mattered a great deal to Steve, as did freedom for the Miami Five, freedom for imprisoned teacher trade unionists and education for all. I congratulate Bernard, a dedicated internationalist, on receiving this award.”
Cuba Solidarity Campaign wish to thank the NUT for inviting Gertrudis Simon Pineda and for their continued support for CSC and the people of Cuba.