Cubans to the rescue
Being blessed with five children and not enough time in the day to give them all what they need, we have begun considering importing a few Cuban youngsters to help our children to be children. Because Cuban kids, much like their doctors and engineers, apparently offer something unique that we simply can’t find here in South Africa.
South Africa’s obsession with Cuba and her people had me wondering if there wasn’t something that I was missing. First, the African National Congress (ANC) imported doctors to assist in our fight against COVID-19. The move took place at a time when our own doctors were unable to find posts, and yet the outcry from local doctors failed to stop the initiative.
And now, in their latest Cuban import programme, it was announced that 24 engineers from Cuba had arrived and been welcomed in order to assist with water, sanitation, and infrastructure. According to the department, “The highly-qualified Cuban specialists will assist as advisors at provincial and local levels across the country, sharing their vast skills in the areas of mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering, as well as project management.”
Not everyone was happy. Political parties and labour organisations criticised the government’s decision to obtain help from Cuba at the expense of local talent.
Labour union Solidarity went so far as to send the department a list of 120 South African engineers who it said were qualified, competent, and willing to help fix the country’s water infrastructure. The union said it was unjustified to import foreign workers in the midst of an unemployment crisis, with South Africa’s official unemployment rate at almost 33%.
But the ANC remains undeterred. It’s clear that the government knows something we don’t. And it cannot be without good reason that it places such immense faith in the quality and expertise of this remarkable nation.
To be fair, I have never met a Cuban I didn’t like. Not that I have ever met one. But I trust the research the government has done, which made me wonder if there isn’t a pool of talent that could be the answer to some of our other challenges.
What if we could consider Cubans to fill roles at home and in our community? With the shortage, for example, of qualified Hebrew teachers, it could well be time for the South African Jewish Board of Education to start importing them from Cuba? Work visas won’t be a problem, and they must be known to be the best in the world (the ANC will provide references).
Further, I know of many a shul and community in search of a rabbi. Why not bring in a newly minted Cuban one? Mashgichim for the Beth Din? Car guards outside KosherWorld? Community Security Organisation volunteers? Talk show hosts for ChaiFM? The list is endless.
I have taken this strategy home. It has to be said that my wife isn’t fully on board with this, but I have started to threaten our children with bringing in Cuban substitutes if they don’t clear the table when I ask them to. Because, G-d knows, I will find a willing Cuban child who will. And they are the best at it. Apparently.
All said, we do need to be grateful to the Cubans. So often as South Africans we underplay the talent that we have, the training, ability, and quality of what our own country has to offer. We need to be grateful to the Cubans and the ANC for reminding us that in spite of what the government is telling us, our qualifications and skills are pretty decent and our kids aren’t not nearly as lazy as we thought they were. Even if they don’t clear the table when we ask them to.