A homeschooling father who sought to give his children the best education available, by pulling them out of the politicized state schools in Cuba and teaching them at home, has been ordered to spend a year under house arrest.
The sentence was announced by a Cuban court for pastor Ramón Rigal and his wife, Adya, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
In a report by HSLDA Director of Global Outreach Mike Donnelly, Rigas said authorities used his three-hour trial this week as a platform for denouncing alternatives to government-controlled education.
“They would not let me speak in my defense,” Ramón told Donnelly. “I brought evidence that my children were learning – notebooks and materials – [but] they didn’t care.”
Donnelly explained the parents decided to homeschool their children earlier this year to “remove them from an environment where they were being bullied and indoctrinated in the state school system.”
They were arrested in February on claims they were contributing to the delinquency of minors.
At trial, the evidence the parents had brought, including that Cuba’s constitution and international agreements to which it is a party allow homeschooling, was dealt with quickly by the judge, the report said.
“When I tried to tell the judge about my evidence or to say that the government was acting unfairly, the judge told me that if I continued to speak she would have me removed from the courtroom,” Ramón told Donnelly.
He said that when he would try to bring up one of his witnesses, the judge would tell them to “get out of here.”
Donnelly said the judge instead used “what appeared to be scripted presentations from state employees, such as a school “psychologist” and a probation officer.
They testified that “only trained teachers are qualified to inculcate socialist values.”
Further, the prosecutor said homeschooling “is not allowed in Cuba because it has a capitalist foundation.”
The result, Donnelly concluded, “was just about what one expects from the communist courts of Cuba – anything but justice.”
While the parents technically can appeal, finding a lawyer may be impossible.
“Communist governments do not appreciate lawyers who are willing to defend people whose human rights have been violated. Officials in communist China recently arrested hundreds of lawyers who were then accused of disloyalty for denouncing abuses by the government,” the HSLDA report said.
“They are trying to force us to send our children only to state schools – not having the option for the children to be taught at home. They should respect the right that parents have based on the human right to teach their children and to respect their faith and the right to homeschool,” Ramon said.
Adya said she worries not just for her children but the congregation in her husband’s church.
The family has requested asylum in the United States.
“Home School Legal Defense Association will continue to support the Rigals, and we encourage the global homeschooling community to affirm the parents’ right to teach their children at home,” Donnelly’s report said.
The organization also as created an online petition to call on the Cuban government to correct the human rights abuse.
“Please sign this petition telling the Cuban Embassy that homeschooling is fundamental right of all families, and that you expect Cuba to protect basic human rights as a country maintaining normal relations with the United States,” said HSLDA.
WND reported as the couple headed to trial that while President Obama re-established diplomatic relations with the communist regime, the hoped-for improvement in human rights hasn’t materialized.
Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies that parents have the right to choose how to educate their children, but Cuba’s national law still states “education is a function of the state” and outlines what everyone must learn at a “minimum.”
The U.N. has said a parent’s right to choose the schooling for their child is a “prior” right that is higher than others.
It was the Municipal Office of Education in Guantanamo that explained “in our system, homeschooling is not considered an educational institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist foundations.”