Mr. A. E. Frye, Superintendent of Schools in Cuba, spoke last night on the subject of "Education in Cuba," and incidentally gave an interesting description of Cuban life in general.
When the Americans came into Cuba at the close of the war they found the school system, such as it had been, entirely destroyed. The schools were in great disorder, and, though probably fifteen thousand children were enrolled, there were only about four thousand in actual attendance. The teachers were provided with dwelling houses by the municipalities and were expected to devote one room to school purposes. They had not been paid their salaries for thirty-two months, and had to depend solely upon the subscriptions of the wealthier parents. Many of the schools devoted all their time to the making and selling of embroidery. In May last year the secretary of public instruction was authorized to draw up a school law. This law provided that each municipality should organize its own school system, thus making one hundred and thirty one different systems in the island. To show the nature of the course of study under this law. Logarithms were prescribed as a regular course in the fifth grade of primary schools. Third year primary pupils were expected to study physics, chemistry and meteorology.
Last September the United States government first turned its attention to Cuban educational affairs and as soon as possible established a new school system. Mr. Frye, acting first as General Brooke's personal representative and later as superintendent of schools, organized the system as closely as possible after that of the United States. A new school law was written, and definite and practical primary courses of study were laid down. The study of religion was taken out of the schools entirely. Both the whites and the negroes were allowed to attend the schools on equal terms, where before the whites only had been admitted. In place of the one hundred and thirty-one systems, one centralized system was instituted with a board of education in Havana, under which there was a similar board in each municipality. An appropriation of $3,000,000 has been spent in building up the system. As a result, in place of the original four thousand there are now over one hundred and thirty thousand children in school, and in place of the original two hundred teachers there are now thirty-five hundred.
The Cubans as a whole are perfectly honest and trustworthy. There are now a great many of them employed in responsible positions in the island, and there has yet to be discovered a single case of dishonesty. The teachers who will attend the school at Harvard this summer are from the very best class. They are remarkably intelligent and anxious to learn, and the influence of their trip will be directly felt in every quarter of the island. The instruction here will be carried on in Spanish, as only about five per cent of the teachers understand English. Excursions will be taken to places oi historical interest, and numerous social diversions will be planned. The original number of one thousand has been increased to fourteen hundred,--the capacity of Sanders Theatre where most of the lectures will be held.