Fidel Castro at the graduation ceremony of 10 teachers of the Makarenko Pedagogical Institute and at the end of the school year of 000,6 peasant women of the Ana Betancourt school, December 1963, <>. Photo: Fidel Castro Ruz Center / Fidel Soldado de las Ideas Site.

Since the triumph of the Revolution, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro established education as a fundamental right for all Cubans. Policies and programs aimed at ensuring access to education were implemented, regardless of social origin, gender, or geographic location.

On December 6, 1963, Fidel Castro participated in the graduation ceremony of 300 teachers from the Makarenko Pedagogical Institute and in the end of the school year for 10,000 peasant women from the Ana Betancourt school.

During the event, which took place at the Ciudad Deportiva, he gave a speech in which he addressed the progress of the Cuban Revolution in the field of education and teacher training, especially for rural and mountainous areas where access was more difficult.

Cubadebate and the website Fidel Soldado de las Ideas share with readers excerpts from that speech:

The Revolution has been gaining in organization

Many things are being accomplished in tonight's event, and it can be said that a multifarious work is coming together here today. It would be even better understood if I said that tonight's event resembles the spring of a river, which is formed by many streams, major and minor rivers, until all the streams come together into one. And here a whole series of educational currents come together into one, and that's pretty much what we have tonight is a flood [LAUGHTER]. It can be said that the river that this revolutionary movement represents in education has overflowed. In turn, this big river is going to flow into the other big one, which is all the enormous national education effort that is being made.

But it can be said that one of the most representative of all is this, and one of the things in which the progress of the Revolution can best be appreciated: what the Revolution has been gaining in organization, in efficiency, what it has been gaining in experience, what it has been gaining in cadres. Because it is truly incredible how the cadres that have been integrating this educational movement have multiplied.

It was necessary to appeal to the youth

(...) At the beginning of the Revolution there were no teachers for the mountains, it was difficult, because most of the teachers also came from the cities. Of course, in the mountains there were no primary schools – how could teachers come out of the mountains? – and in the countryside there were little schools for first and second grades, and that was the end of it.

The normal schools were in the towns, and naturally all the professional cadres for teaching who came out of the cities were very difficult to adapt to the life of the country. And there are a lot of stories about the work, about how the schools worked; Some schools were working very well, but others were working poorly. There were very compliant teachers in some schools in the camp, but there were others who went on Wednesday and came back on Thursday, too. And that's in the countryside, not in the mountains.

I was born and lived in the countryside, and I went to one of those little schools at the beginning, and there it wasn't very far, of course, the railroad was four kilometers away, but a school in La Plata, in Ocujal, in Palma Mocha, in Caguara, in Gaviro, in San Lorenzo, in Caracas and in all these places in the Sierra Maestra is a very difficult thing. because there you are days away from any communication.

It was then necessary to appeal to young people, high school students, university students or trade schools who wanted to join teaching. And to test them, we organized the school in the Mines of the Cold. Then, there they went through a trial of a course of several months, even three ascents to the Turquino. Because the Revolution, the war, the struggle in the mountains taught us that the mountains were a very hard and very good test, and those who did not have the mettle for the mountains always ended up inventing something to return to the plains or to abandon the struggle. And some confessed it frankly: "I can't resist."

And so we used the mountains and, above all, a mountain environment, which was the area where they were going to work.

And so three courses were organized where thousands of young people studied and from which thousands of teachers emerged. But from among the students of those courses we made a selection and organized the Conrado Benítez School of Revolutionary Instruction: then the Conrado Benítez instructors are a selection of the volunteer teachers, of those who passed the course of the Minas del Frío and then studied here, they received a special course in which they were trained for their work as revolutionary instructors and, At the same time, as teachers, to work in the night schools of domestics.

Youth is the raw material

(...) And I believe that deeds speak louder than words; There are some unbelievers who don't believe things until they see things. If that were the case, there would be no revolutions and no progress for humanity. Humanity progresses for those who have faith, and for those who have confidence in the future, and above all for those who have confidence in youth, and for those who understand that in youth is the raw material for the great future of the homeland! [APPLAUSE] And that is why these young people must be cared for and dedicated to them with care. And this youth must be entirely new in their conception of life, in their attitude to all things and, above all, in their attitude to work, to their duties, because therein lies the hope of the future society that we want to make.

Your task is an extraordinarily important one

(...) That is why our people are already looking to the future with optimism and confidence. The future of a united country, of a strong country, of a hard-working country, that marches forward without fear, with confidence in its strength, in its energy, in its ability to overcome difficulties and obstacles. And for this reason, the future of our country is becoming clearer and more promising.

And that future is for you! You have to be forgers and, moreover, you will enjoy that future! You more than anyone, the young, everywhere! All of you, wherever you are, can do a lot and you will do a lot! Any one of you peasant women; any of you student teachers; any of you instructors; any of you!

I haven't forgotten any of them, because you are, in part, teachers; in part, teachers; in part, students.

And so, where you are working, where you return, you have the opportunity to do a lot. And among other things, to continue to improve oneself. Because it doesn't mean that those who return no longer have hope of receiving a scholarship, no! Those who haven't received a scholarship yet, there is the school, there is the avant-garde teacher. And in that school, by studying, you can also reach the sixth grade, and in that school, by studying, you can earn the opportunity of a scholarship, to study just like these 2,557 selected classmates.

So not a single one of you can consider that you lack the opportunity. You all have the opportunity. And I am sure that many of you will continue to study and many of you will acquire the opportunity to also receive a scholarship to study any of these teachings that we have mentioned and others.

Because that's what the Revolution means: the opportunity for all, the right of everyone to be able to study, to be able to improve themselves, to be able to become a useful citizen of their country, to be able to fully develop their intelligence! Not a single intelligence will be lost; In our fields, in our mountains, not a single intelligence will be lost.

And great will be the homeland of tomorrow when all the minds of our country will work and fight in it, and in it all the minds of our country will be employed!

And that is your mission: the one you have fulfilled now, selecting the peasant women who are going to continue studying; which they will have to comply with more and more everywhere.

And above all, you, the teachers, the future teachers, the students of the pedagogical institute who are beginning now, your task is an extraordinarily important, extraordinarily beautiful task. Because you will go to those mountains, you will teach, all the graduates of our teachers' schools will pass through those mountains. And you will be the ones who will have the first contacts with the children, with the intelligences of our people.

And the task begins there, in the little school in the fields; The task begins there, with the primary school teacher, and will end in the universities, it will end in the centers of scientific research.

And by working in this way, we will make a great future, we will make a great homeland. It is in this great homeland that we all think, when we say:

Homeland or Death!

We shall overcome!

[STANDING OVATION]

Stenographic versions - Council of State

In audio, the full speech:

Listen to Fidel's speech on December 6, 1963 at the graduation ceremony of three hundred teachers of the Makarenko Pedagogical Institute" in Spreaker.

Listen to "Fidel's speech on December 6, 1963 at the graduation of three hundred teachers of the Makarenko Pedagogical Institute" in Spreaker.