Over the past four decades and more, Cuba has provided thousands of scholarships to the Caribbean Community.
Castries, Saint Lucia: Never mind its continuing challenges, Cuba is continuing to offer scholarships to Caribbean students to attend free university classes at the University of Havana and other Cuban educational and training institutions.
Over the past four decades and more, Cuba has provided thousands of scholarships to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations to assist in their national development.
In December 2017, President Raul Castro, in his last meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government at the Cuba-CARICOM Summit held in Antigua, revealed that by then, 5,432 scholarships had been granted by Havana to CARICOM countries.
Over the period, each of the mainly island states have each year welcomed doctors, dentists, agronomists, engineers, technicians and other mainly social service providers following their graduation in Cuba.
In 2019, the Cuban government, under President Miguel Bermudez Canel, continues to issue the free scholarships to Caribbean students, with the total number awarded to CARICOM states now closer to 5,500.
In the case of Saint Lucia, scholarships are this year being offered to eligible nationals to pursue studies for the academic year 2019/2020 at the Undergraduate (Bachelor’s) and Postgraduate levels.
In the majority of cases, the scholarships offered aim to produce professionals in the field of Medicine and Health Specialist.
The Embassy of Cuba in Saint Lucia has begun working together with the island’s Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development of Saint Lucia, which has commenced a selection process.
In August, the selected students will head to Cuba for their respective courses that will last several years.
Cuba continues to contribute to the development and training of specialists from the Caribbean country – and in Saint Lucia’s case in the high-impact public health sector.
Apart from the annual scholarships, Cuba also trained over 400 Saint Lucian nurses at special facility in Matanzas between 2005 and 2007, ahead of the construction of new hospitals and medical facilities on the island.
Cuba and Saint Lucia this year mark the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, during which more than 600 specialists and professionals have studied in and graduated from educational institutions in Cuba.
Cuba’s generous education package isn’t only shared with the Caribbean, as the program has also over the past decades also involved thousands more students from Africa, Asia and the Americas (North and South).
Students are mainly selected on the basis of the country’s identified needs and special attention is usually given to students with the academic ability but whose parents cannot afford the cost of education at paying institutions.
The students and parents will have saved amounts of money they would not normally have afforded, but the graduated professional return home with a necessary skill – and proficiency in Spanish.
Cuba has maintained the free overseas scholarship program even through the ‘Special Period’ when the low cost of sugar on the world – and other factors related to decades of economic sanctions imposed by the USA -- markedly reduced the island’s earnings from its main export crop.
The CARICOM Heads of Government, as a unit and individually, have all welcomed the continuing Cuban scholarship program, which has significantly contributed to improvement of delivery of health and other crucial social services.