HAVANA, Cuba — A Cuban couple was recently arrested for homeschooling their children, as the government says that “homeschooling is not considered an educational institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist foundations.”
Ramón and Adya Rigal were taken into custody on Feb. 21 after authorities realized their children were not attending school and would not make any allowances despite the family’s requests. Ramón is a pastor.
The Rigals had chosen to homeschool as they “wanted the freedom to give our children the education that we, the parents, have chosen.” Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that parents have the right to provide their children the education of their choosing.
However, the Cuban government “wanted to impose their position upon us and gave us a warning notice and told us they would take us before the courts because of our position on homeschooling,” Ramón Rigal told the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
“I visited authorities several times to find a peaceable solution to my problem,” he explained. “I brought up the possibility of homeschooling under their supervision. I was told that if I did, my wife and I would be imprisoned and our children sent away.”
The couple soon also received a letter from the Municipal Office of Education, which advised that “in our system, homeschooling is not considered an educational institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist foundations.” It also warned that Cuban criminal code penalizes those who lead a child to be “absent from school.”
HSLDA sent a letter to the Office of Education in November to plead on the Rigals’ behalf, noting that “[h]ome education is a fundamental and natural right of all parents recognized in international human rights law.”
“There is no human rights framework or treaty that recognizes that an education must be provided by government controlled schools, or in any particular school at all,” it noted.
However, on Feb. 21, officers arrived at the Rigals’ home to take them to the police station. The couple begged the police not to arrest them in front of their children and said that they would go to the station themselves later.
When they arrived, they were arrested and charged with “acting contrary to the normal development of a minor.”
A video of the couple at the police station shows Ramón explaining the situation.
“The accuse us of not sending the children to school. We are waiting here for God to help us. So, keep praying for us,” he states.
The Rigals, now released, are required to check in with the police on a weekly basis until their trial.
In the interim, HSLDA has launched a petition to the Cuban Embassy in Washington to request that it declare that families have a right to homeschool their children.
“A society that forces children to learn only in public school is totalitarian,” it reads in part. “The right of people to establish private schools and to homeschool is a minimum expectation in a free nation. As Cuban-U.S. relations are normalized, we must ensure that this right is upheld.”
“I call upon the Cuban government to immediately acknowledge the right of parents to homeschool their children and stop its mistreatment of the Rigal family.”