Cuba, a country where almost one fifth of the total population rushes to make their way through the thick crowd amassed not in a theatre or a cinema hall, but a ‘book fair‘. There are reasons behind it, even when the government is spending 10% of the budget on education and the literacy rate is excellent (98%). Cubans engage in an annual effort, just like some ritual to gather at the book fair. On the other hand, the fair itself is also designed to instil reading habits among the masses. Events of this nature, around the world aim at promoting publishing houses, authors, collecting money or selling untouched books. In Cuba, the case is different where the purpose is to organize a ‘book sale’ .
Some of the Cuban reporters think that there isn’t much material available in the shops usually for ‘reading’. Being the most repressive country suffering at the behest of US sanctions it still managed to reach the 10th position out of 125 countries in adult literacy (which is greater than the United States). There is more to celebrate when it comes to the success of the education system in Cuba:
- Cuba is the only Latin American and non-English-speaking Caribbean country considered by UNESCO to have achieved the Education For All (EFA) goals.
- Only five countries (out of 125) exceed Cuba in public expenditure on education as a percentage of GNP
- Cuba has the lowest pupil-teacher ratio of any Latin American or Caribbean country, and 100% of Cuba’s primary school teachers are trained.
(All statistics according to UNESCO reports, retrieved from http://directaction.org.au/issue38/education_for_liberation_behind_cuba_s_education_success)
Cuba can become a ‘literary model’ for the way it is carrying out a ‘literary revolution’. In the times to come, Cubans will guide others to embrace the concept of ‘knowledge economy’. The future belongs to countries where book fairs are revered not exploited for gaining bucks of money.
- Havana book fair feeds Cuba’s hunger for literature (bbc.co.uk)
- Cuba Book Fair Opens on Feb. 14 (repeatingislands.com)
- Cuba opens int’l book fair (nzweek.com)