Exclusive Breastfeeding Study

Educate your child program

The majority of Cuban children take part in a non-institutional program called ‘Educa a Tu Hijo’ [Educate Your Child]. This program was designed to coach and empower families to stimulate their child’s integrated development, based on their own experience, interests and needs. The program embraces the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, and making the program available throughout the country is a tremendous accomplishment.

Education and Early Child Development

Non-compulsory preschool education is directed to children aged 6 months to 5 years and is delivered in three ways: child care centres known as Círculos Infantiles are for child between 6 months and 5 years whose mothers are working. Some child care centres also offer preschool education; Educa a Tu Hijo [Educate Your Child] program provides non-institutional preschool education for children who do not attend child care centres. Non-institutional preschool is based on household education (from 0 to 2 years of age) and is delivered through informal groups in parks or other nearby sites for children aged 2 to 4 and preschool preparatory grade for 5 year olds is open to all children whether their mothers work or not. Together, these programs reach almost all children under six. Primary school education, which begins at age 6, is compulsory for children up to age 14.

Circulos Infantiles (daycares)

First established in 1961, there are now over 1,100 free, all-day, centre-based child care programs in Cuba that provide care for about 110,000 children. There are three types of child care centres: standard day programs that run five days a week for children with working parents; centres for children with disabilities that cater to children with special needs; and children with social problems who may stay at a boarding school.

‘Educa a tu Hijo’ Program

Cuba started a national program of community-based services for young children and their families called Educa a Tu Hijo [Educate Your Child]. It was designed as a non-institutional alternative for children who do not attend a child care centre, intended to coach and empower families to stimulate their child’s integrated development, based on their own experience, interests and needs. As part of the program, future mothers and fathers receive information and counseling about healthy pregnancies and early child development during health visits to doctors and nurses. Families with children under two years of age receive individual home visits once or twice a week and are guided through games, conversations and other activities to enhance their babies’ development; children between the age of two and four and their families go on weekly or semi-weekly group outings to parks, cultural facilities and sports centers with counselors trained in child development and family participation. The program also provides educational coverage for approximately 7,000 five and six year-old children from mountainous, rural and remote areas where there are no círculos infantiles and primary schools are too far away.

Early Programs for Children with Disabilities

Cuba has a Diagnosis and Guidance Centre in every municipality for the early detection of developmental disabilities and provision of recommendations on the steps that should be taken, for example, in the cases of deaf, blind and autistic children. These centres have multidisciplinary teams and are the first link in special education. Children are referred from the family doctors’ offices or day care centres. The most severe cases identified are handled by the Ministry of Health’s Early Intervention Programs and by special classrooms incorporated into the daycares that are equipped to deal with disabled and mentally retarded children and teachers. Seventy-seven percent of Cubans with mental retardation have attended school. Currently, there are 421 special schools across the country.