Generosity in Cuba’s medical schools

Few people know that every year, Cuba enables many American students to attend medical school at Cuba’s universities — free of charge. This generosity is extended to students who cannot afford university fees in their own country. Yes, it is good public relations, but still a wonderful act of generosity extended to people whose country still maintains an economic blockade against Cuba causing 54 years of hardship. Thanks to Cuba, those graduating doctors (mostly black men and women) return to the USA to provide medical services to the very country that didn’t help them become doctors.

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A review by writer Linda Rogers of historical fiction novel, Anita’s Revolution

This review appears in the London Progressive Journal, a distinguished online journal originating in the UK. Author Linda Rogers was honoured with the position of poet laureate of Victoria, British Columbia.

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First English-language bookstore opened in Havana

A small bookstore has just been opened in Havana by an ex-patriate American woman who has lived in Cuba for several years. Books in English are being donated because it’s very difficult to import books in Cuba. When I go to Cuba next, I will donate some copies of my book, Anita’s Revolution. I wish there were a way for a Cuban company to import and sell Anita’s Revolution because I think there are plenty of Cubans who read English, as well as tourists who would enjoy reading about this fascinating time in Cuba’s history. Meanwhile, good luck to the new bookstore!

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Very strange policy

Did you know that some of the online bookstores do not pay the author when books are downloaded until the money accumulated amounts to $100.00? If you want to help me get paid for my work in writing and submitting my book, Anita’s Revolution, to the world, please purchase the e-book if you haven’t already. People who have read Anita’s Revolution tell me it’s a book worth reading, and BC Bookworld praised it, calling it a marvelous novel.

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BC Bookworld called Anita’s Revolution “a marvelous novel!”

Our youth are capable of so much more than given credit for, don’t you think? Anita’s Revolution, the story, speaks to the ability of youth to make significant contributions to society if given the opportunity. It also celebrates literacy and the role of education in enabling people to strive to be the most they can be. And people who have read the book tell me it’s a very good read. BC Bookworld called Anita’s Revolution “a marvellous novel!”

I have given many presentations – to secondary schools, libraries and interest groups. If you would like to know more about this inspiring book and its subject matter, don’t hesitate to contact me at:

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Tourists in Cuba

I have received lots of communications from people who have read my book, “Anita’s Revolution”, and who have been travelling in Cuba. They tell me about talking to Cubans about the literacy campaign, and almost everyone they talk to had a relative who was a brigadista, a volunteer literacy teacher in the campaign. That almost always initiates a long conversation about the significance of the campaign in the development of Cuba. According to UNESCO, one of every 15 Cubans has a university education. That in itself is a wonderful thing, but there is a problem in that so many Cubans are “over educated” for the jobs available in a country that is still developing. People feel frustrated in being “under-employed”. But still, I feel that Cubans are very, very fortunate to have had such an opportunity, compared to other developing countries where one in four persons are unable to read and write. Being a highly-educated country is so special in Cuba, for it validates the saying, “Reading, in itself, is a revolutionary act!”

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Anxiously awaiting the translation of Anita’s Revolution

In a way, when a book is translated, it’s a new and different book. Many books suffer from a mediocre translation, or it could be a better book. So much depends on the skill of the translator. The Spanish title of my book will probably be changed to “Anita la Brigadista”. It’s so exciting to think how many Spanish-speaking people will be able to read my book once it is translated.

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London Progressive Journal – full article on literacy by Shirley Langer

The London Progressive Journal has published my article about world literacy and the modern Cuban literacy program called Yo Si Puedo. The link below will take you to it. Also published there is a book review of Anita’s Revolution by Canadian writer, Linda Rogers. I hope you enjoy one or both these articles.

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Here’s an excerpt from an article I’m writing for the London Progressive Journal, an online newspaper.

Literacy Skills: A Basic Human Right

– by Shirley Langer

Complete illiteracy means a person cannot read or write at all. You, reading these words, do you know anyone who is completely illiterate? Equally relevant is the concept of functional illiteracy. This means an individual may have basic reading, writing and numerical skills, but cannot apply them to accomplish tasks that are necessary to make informed choices and participate fully in everyday life. Such tasks may include:

  • reading a medicine label

  • reading a nutritional label on a food product

  • balancing a cheque book

  • filling out a job application

  • reading and responding to correspondence in the workplace

  • filling out a home loan application

  • reading a bank statement

  • comparing the cost of two items to work out which one offers the best value

  • working out the correct change at a supermarket.

Poor literacy limits a person’s ability to engage in activities that require either critical thinking or a solid base of literacy and numeracy skills. Such activities may include:

  • understanding government policies and voting in elections

  • using a computer to do banking or interact with government agencies

  • calculating the cost and potential return of a financial investment

  • using a computer or smartphone to look up and access up-to-date news and information; communicate with others via email or social networking sites; or shop online, read product reviews and user feedback and get the best prices for goods and services

  • completing a higher education degree or training

  • assisting children with homework.

Tragically, illiteracy also costs human lives. How many babies, children and even adults have their lives endangered due to the inability to read, write and use literacy skills to access information that could save their lives? In Jonathan Kozol’s 1985 book, Illiterate America, he was shocked at the serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems that illiterates must constantly endure — problems that we would consider a crisis if they occurred to us. Illiterates must endure at least 34 different types of problems in order to “get by” in our present complicated society. Many simple daily tasks we take for granted are beyond the abilities of many illiterates.

A recent paper titled “International Perspective”, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, states that more than 860 million men and women world-wide cannot read or write. That is, there are more illiterate adults than there are adults in Europe and North America combined. In developing countries, it is estimated that one person in four is illiterate, and UNESCO states this figure is probably a significant underestimate. Yet literacy has been proven to be key to peace, health, and the economic success of people and nations. The opportunity to acquire the ability to read, write and calculate is recognized as a basic human right, one that enables the acquisition of the skills necessary for effective and productive performance within society.

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A Presentation

While in Havana recently, I was asked to give a “charla”, a talk, to the Association of Linguists, Specialists in English in Cuba. The presentation took place in a viewing room on the premises of ICAIC, Cuba’s Film industry. Speaking before me was a Cuban man who had been in charge of delivering Cuba’s literacy program called YO SI PUEDO to a pilot group of 16 aboriginals in Australia, the first of its kind. The YO SI PUEDO program grew out of Cuba’s national literacy campaign and has been successfully delivered to people in at least a dozen countries. Interestingly, I learned that the technique of YO SI PUEDO is currently being used to teach Canada’s First Nations their first tongue in two native communities: one in Squamish British Columbia, the other in Ontario to a tribe near Ottawa.

My talk to the roomful of English language specialists was enthusiastically received. I spoke of my motivation to write the book, which originally was to tell a unique story which was little known. I then enlarged on the themes of the book,: the right to literacy; the importance of education to empower individuals and societies, the important contributions youth can offer their society if given the chance. The final theme was about politicians and politics–that it’s not enough for politicians to talk about their vision; that it’s having the intention and political will to make the vision a reality. However history may judge Fidel Castro and his Revolution, the legacy of literacy and educational achievement accomplished  in Cuba through Fidel’s vision and political will cannot be denied. That roomful of teachers, English specialists, mostly women, was proof positive. Before the revolution, 70% of Cuban women worked as household domestics.

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