Students selected to study medicine in Cuba complain

By Drum Digital
24 December 2013

Students selected to study medicine in Cuba disgruntled after the Mpumalanga government allegedly dropped them from the programme without explanation.

Disgruntled students selected to study medicine in Cuba have raised their frustrations on the Cuban Embassy's website after the Mpumalanga government allegedly dropped them from the programme without explanation.

Only 10 of the 17 students selected for the programme this year left for Cuba on Friday, a Sapa correspondent reported.

"We were told [in October] that we will be going, but all of a sudden we are ignored and told that only 10 will be going to Cuba. We have not been given any explanation about why we are not going anymore," said one of the students, Mduduzi Masemola.

Masemola said the students were all from poor families and had lost a lot of money preparing for the trip.

"It pains me to see what the Mpumalanga department of health is doing to us. We wasted a lot of money going up and down doing medical tests and applying for passports and visas. Now we are dropped without any explanation," he said.

It puzzled him that some of the 10 selected to go were still waiting for their 2013 matric results.

"After I was selected last year, I was required to do medical tests and even signed a contract.

"My mother was also excited that I will become a doctor and build her a house, but in the end her dream was shattered because I was dropped from the programme with no explanation," said Masemola.

"I currently survive by washing cars and doing odd jobs around my community."

Provincial health spokesperson Ronnie Masilela confirmed that only 10 students were going to Cuba, but declined to comment on the allegations that other students had been dropped without explanation.

However, last month, Mpumalanga health department human resource development director Bheki Magagula said the selection process was complex, and that even selection did not guarantee a student would go to Cuba.

"The South African government has its own laws, as well as Cuba, so negotiations are always on the table as numbers can be cut down," he said.

Last year, 100 students were selected, but only 93 went.

Masilela said those who were selected to leave on Friday came from the most poverty stricken municipalities in the province.

He said the department was paying their fees in full.

"These fees cover everything from flying the students, tuition, books, etc.

"They will also receive a stipend of US200 per month [around R2000]," said Masilela.

The North West government was able to send 83 students on the Cuban programme this year. – Sapa

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