At Cepero Bonilla high school this year the physics teacher failed 500 students. My neighbor’s daughter was one of the victims of the “terrible” 61-year-old teacher who “knows it all.” He failed the girl and her mother went to protest at the school, where she didn’t expect to meet the other 500 parents at the door.
No one could enter the school: not even the children of mom and pop could enter, she told me, meanwhile poking me in the right shoulder. She heard, in the middle of the poking, a lieutenant colonel shout he’d blow the teacher’s brains out if his son lost a year.
As she’s a buddy of the English teacher, who is even more appalled by the attitude of the physics teacher, she managed to slip in and talk with the one “responsible” for the failure of the students. The first thing she asked him was why he hadn’t given her daughter, who is so good in all other things and always participates in political activities, the grade she needed to meet the teacher's standard. She received a negative response which annoyed her but there was nothing she could do: the girl will have to be re-evaluated along with her 499 classmates and come back to retake the exam.
Meanwhile, I got the whole story from another neighbor, even more horrified than the English teacher, who encouraged her to be careful, because she was sure that the teacher “had it in for the girl” for “some reason.”
It seems that no one seems to realize in this country that when a student fails an exam it’s because she doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to show she’s mastered the material of the school year and that, obviously, she needs to study it again.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.