by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Jessica Iglesias, a high school senior from Havana, is happy to return to in-person classes at Eduardo Garcia vocational school for future teachers, which has been closed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like her, thousands of teachers-to-be in Cuba are not only taking lessons on the subjects they will teach, but on safety guidelines and coronavirus protocols in a new classroom environment.
The 18-year-old told Xinhua that the strict observance of sanitary measures is fundamental to reduce the likelihood of exposure to the virus among pupils and school staff.
She is expected to receive her diploma in the coming months at the graduation ceremony scheduled for the end of 2021.
"We are very happy to be back at school after having received three doses of Cuban vaccines," she said. "Our work will also be fundamental to have coronavirus-free schools on the island."
The future teachers are subject to temperature checks while mask mandates and physical distancing guidelines remain in place to contain the spread of the virus.
School board member Yadira Rodriguez said that the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some changes in the curricular programs for elementary, secondary and high school teachers.
"We are going through a very difficult situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic," she said. "That is why it is very important that teachers successfully deal with all coronavirus-related issues that may arise in the classroom."
Across the country's 29 vocational schools for future teachers, students are provided with knowledge of infection prevention, detection of COVID-19 symptoms, and disinfection solutions.
Since the start of the pandemic in Cuba in March 2020, schools have fluctuated between remote and in-person teaching, abiding by coronavirus guidance.
The Caribbean nation gradually started to reopen schools for high-school seniors in early October as part of a governmental strategy to resume face-to-face teaching after children aged 2-18 get fully vaccinated.
Cuban Education Minister Ena Elsa Velazquez said that at present there are nearly 31,000 students enrolled at vocational schools for future teachers.
"We consider that the conditions have been set for the safe reopening of schools and a successful school year," she told Xinhua. "The success will not only depend on the vaccination drive but on the fulfilment of health protocols in the context of the pandemic."