Fidel, can we have a word?

3rd November 2006 at 00:00
Sixth formers hope to give coursework oomph by interviewing Cuba's leader

It may rank as the most unlikely A-level coursework ever. A group of Hampshire sixth formers is off to Cuba next month, with the hope of interviewing socialism's most charismatic living (possibly) icon as he celebrates his 80th birthday.

Thirty teenagers from Farnborough sixth form college are taking time out from their studies to track down Fidel Castro.

In July, the college applied to the Cuban consulate in London for an audience with the world's longest-serving political leader, which they plan to film.

To its astonishment, the application was not rebuffed. Staff and students now hope to spend time with Castro as preparations for his birthday, postponed in August due to ill health, gather pace.

Jon Marks, director of the college's arts and languages faculty, said: "The goal is to set up the interview and to ask Castro to reflect on his time in office and what legacy he hopes to leave the Cuban people.

"We'll ask him about a vision for the future and to comment on global issues - the environment, global warming and the political world map."

He admitted, however, that the chances of actually interviewing "El Comandante" were slim.

Castro had surgery for intestinal bleeding in the summer and has temporarily ceded power to his brother, Raul. Rumours of his death have circulated ever since, only to be dampened by his sporadic appearances on television. The last was at the weekend, when he was pictured with the day's newspaper and a defiant message that his recovery was coming along "just as planned".

If the prospect of an interview with Castro is optimistic, Mr Marks said the trip's main goal was to film the students' experience of attempting to secure the meeting. Along the way, they plan to interview Cuban people, film the country's architecture and street life, and attend the Havana film festival.

The group, who have paid for the week-long trip themselves, hope to include podcasts and written work from the trip in coursework for A-levels in Spanish, film, media and music technology.

Mr Marks said the film would document a country which could change beyond all recognition when Castro goes. He said: "While the goal is Castro, our path will give us a captivating film. What kind of country will it be in five years' time?"

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