‘Young South Africans should study in Cuba’

2013-07-15 00:00

YOUNG people who wish to study medicine in Cuba should grab the opportunity provided by the Health Department with both hands. This is advice from Pietermaritzburg’s Dr Siyabonga Mbanjwa, who graduated as a general medical practitioner in Pretoria last week.

He spoke against the backdrop of a number of students who were complaining about the food and an insufficient allowance in Cuba.

According to national Health spokesperson Joe Maila, 62 South African doctors graduated on the day, with Mbanjwa the only one hailing from KwaZulu-Natal. He is currently completing his internship at Newcastle Hospital, and needs to complete five years’ service in the public health sector. Mbanjwa left for Cuba to study medicine in 2002.

“I was doing my last semester in chemical engineering at the Durban University of Technology when I left. This all started in 2001, when a relative brought me application forms for the scholarship provided by the Health Department. When I was accepted, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” said Mbanjwa, adding that if it was not for the scholarship, he would not have been able to fund his studies.

He studied there for six years and came back, and did a two-year medicine-related programme at the University of Cape Town, which he completed last year. Asked about the food and allowance for students, in light of the South African students who decided to abandon their studies complaining about the food and “meagre” allowance, Mbanjwa said he could only comment on his own experience.

“I went there with a purpose. There are challenges wherever you go, same as here in South Africa. Some people might not stand eating rice and chicken and pork all the time. But we would not go a week without getting beef. I also had my allowance, which was enough for me to survive. In time, you get used to different conditions,” he said.

“Young people must not listen to clueless people who have negative comments, people who might come from better-off families. This is an opportunity made available by the department [health] for people to become better persons. I encourage those who are interested in applying for the scholarship to study in Cuba to do so.”

Maila said the department has had several meetings with the six South African student doctors who abandoned their studies in Cuba, adding that it was agreed they will go back to complete their studies. “The department is in contact with the Cuban authorities to communicate our decision to send the students back to the country to complete their studies. There’s no finality on the matter yet between the two governments,” he said.

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