Cement, sand, paint, carpentry, plumbing, scaffolding, noise and workers in the midst of construction works. This is the atmosphere in Havana schools that are undergoing capital repairs, following damages suffered during the January 27 tornado.
A total of 78 educational institutions in the affected municipalities suffered damages to a greater or lesser extent, and municipal and provincial Education directorates, with the support of state companies and construction contingents, began the recovery works immediately.
Substantial resources have been allocated by the state so that these schools are in better constructive conditions than before the severe weather. Some of the works, such as on the Andrés Luján Vázquez Polytechnic Economics Institute, in San Miguel del Padrón, have already been completed.
“The school was practically leveled by the tornado,” explains Alién Carvajal García, director of the center, “but we already have an enhanced school, repaired in less than a month. Today we begin the educational process with 15 first year, eight second, and ten third year groups.”
While it was being repaired, the institute’s 1,324 students were distributed across other schools of the territory. When they returned on March 18, they immediately noticed the change.
“We have new furniture, bathrooms, floors have been polished,” says Jennifer de la Caridad Matos, a third-year Accounting student. “Voluntary work was organized, and with the help of teachers and ourselves, we were able to ensure a swift recovery.”
The La Asunción residence, where teachers from other provinces that work in Havana’s Diez de Octubre municipality are housed, lost all its roofing and several areas were damaged. While the property is being repaired, teachers will remain housed in other municipalities.
“We have a list of 312 teachers, who were relocated to residences in Cotorro and San Miguel del Padrón. The rest are staying with relatives and some neighbors who extended a helping hand until the residence is repaired,” explains La Asunción Director, Eliecer Vuelta Rojas.
Like this teacher, those who were housed at the residence are also collaborating in the construction work.
“On weekends we do voluntary work here to keep things as clean as possible, and ensure that there are no obstacles when the builders are working.”
Some 140 construction workers of the Julio Antonio Mella contingent are participating in the recovery works.
“The most difficult thing has been the roofing,” notes Ibrahim Estiven Ortiz, of the Julio Antonio contingent. “The tornado swept it almost entirely away, and it has been quite cumbersome work, but it is already finished. Now we are focused on the sanitary-water issue, close to being completed. It has been a good job.”
SENSE OF OWNERSHIP
Licherlys Cruz Pérez was the first to arrive at the school he heads shortly after the devastation of January 27. Today he is immersed amongst the builders completing repair works to the Alfredo Miguel Aguayo Semi-boarding School (Santos Suárez, Diez de Octubre municipality), so that students – now distributed across nearby centers – come back to a building in better conditions.
“I’ve been working here six years now. We started the debris clearing work beginning the early morning after the tornado. The teachers are there with the students, but I’m here in charge.
“The school will be better than it was. The commitment of workers is just that. The other task will be to maintain what is done. Here all workers have a sense of ownership and also material responsibility regarding what they are supplied with, because everything will be new.”