SA medical students in Cuba on strike

2013-02-22 09:37

Johannesburg - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has written letters to South African medical students in Cuba who embarked on an illegal strike in order to define the government's position on the issue, his department said on Thursday.

On 7 February, 187 of the 1 200 South African students studying medicine in Cuba went on strike, spokesperson Joe Maila said.

Their demands include a more than 300% stipend increase, that a health attaché be sent to Cuba, and that they no longer want to be served any meal that contains pork.

Cultural differences

"In dealing with this matter the department suspected that there might also be problems of cultural differences, adaptability and perhaps psychosocial changes, which make it difficult for them to cope with their studies," he said.

"In this regard, the department promptly dispatched a team consisting of a senior social worker, a senior psychologist, HR manager and a doctor... to assist the students accordingly."

He said the team joined the ambassador in Cuba, academic staff at the university and the Cuban government to negotiate with the students.

During the negotiations the students gave the embassy two ultimatums, Maila added, including that the ambassador sign a document that these demands will be met or they come back home.

"Ever since the South African-Cuban medical programme started, South Africa has never had a health attaché in Cuba. The minister decided last year already to appoint, and send a health attaché to Cuba."

The attaché was expected to start in January but had to complete other commitments, and the department said it was "not understandable why this matter is arising" because a decision was made a long time ago.

Food demands

He added that on the issue of food, it has always been a matter negotiated between students and universities, even in South Africa.

"Up to now we know of no student who has to abandon studies because such a matter was not resolved. Our students in Cuba are usually served alternate diets consisting of beef, chicken or pork.

"However, for the two or three weeks, the Cuban government had problems in acquiring beef and chicken, hence they could only serve what was available, which was pork," he added.

Maila added that the stipend would not change as accommodation, food, transport and tuition is jointly sponsored by the two governments.

"For the students to firmly believe that if such a demand is not met they rather come back home, have left the minister with no option but to grant them their wish, because under no condition will the government be willing to meet such [an] outrageous and unreasonable demand of $700 (about R6 218) per month.

"In the letter written to individual students, the minister has stated this point unambiguously and emphasised that at no stage will such a demand ever be entertained," he said.

The students currently receive a stipend of $200 (about R1 776).

  • Desilusionada - 2013-02-22 09:48

    Useless ingrates. Better chance and better opportunity than 5 000 0000 others here in SA......

      kalabafazi - 2013-02-22 10:07

      Give them a hand and they want the whole arm. Send them home to a jobless future, I'm tired of paying for this c@#p.

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2013-02-22 10:11

      Let the Cubans sort them out with typical communist action.

  • Gary5 - 2013-02-22 09:49

    Why should they recieve a stipend, they getting free EVERYTHING from my taxes already and please let them come home now. leeches.

  • albert.kriel.1 - 2013-02-22 09:55

    Since when do you pay a person to study in the first place? These students are very un grateful as they are getting subsidized to study already.

  • Zamani Myende - 2013-02-22 09:59

    The only language most South Africans understand is strike.

      koos.vandermerwe.75 - 2013-02-22 10:13

      Not true. Sadly you can add the words rape, robbery, intimidation and murder to your statement.

      Lucky - 2013-02-22 10:45

      and "take"

  • neil.seaward.1 - 2013-02-22 10:00

    Why they study there? Is the final qualification the same as in SA???

      mlucejko - 2013-02-22 10:45

      I agree with @neil.seaward.. What a stupid place to send South African students!! In Cuba the language is Spanish and I'm guessing that our SA students were educated using English, Africaans or one of the local languages... These students are being used as political pawns in an attempt to improve relations between Cuba and South Africa !!

  • Duits - 2013-02-22 10:01

    What next!

  • compos.mentis.58 - 2013-02-22 10:04

    Just practicing to be able to join the next strike when they are back......

  • travis.chamen - 2013-02-22 10:05

    I can't help wondering how different my life would be had I been given that opportunity. A few years of 'discomfort' for a lifetime as a qualified professional. I need to stop dreaming and get back to work...

  • mo.matt.14 - 2013-02-22 10:07

    Is it not enough that our government is already making us the laughing stock of the world, no our people are going overseas to embarrass us further there.

  • Stephen Michaels - 2013-02-22 10:07

    Nothing new, they've been at it from school days n learned it as a subject....

  • Killbot79 - 2013-02-22 10:07


  • StormyWeather - 2013-02-22 10:08

    ha ha ha - OMG - do they really think they can Toi Toi on Foreign soil and be taken seriously? **doubled over laughing**

  • SouthAfrican1912 - 2013-02-22 10:08

    Well done minister, if they don't see how fortunate they are let them come back and start paying for their own studies, accommodation, transport, food

  • Vumani Langa - 2013-02-22 10:15

    Minister allow ds ungratefull scumbags 2 come back bt pay back de money dey hv used thus far, and give other deserving students a chance

  • mcludeke - 2013-02-22 10:18

    Well striking is part of general education in SA so why should they not feel entitled to get more money. It works for everyone in SA except the people who do not have time to strike as they are working...

  • LiquidIce Mbadamana - 2013-02-22 10:19

    Sies, spoilt brats. You get free food and education yet you do this. So many people back here would do anything to have the oppportunity you have.

  • NKAISANA - 2013-02-22 10:23

    let them come home to join unemployed youth here in south Africa including our President Malema who is also unemployed and victimised by Zuma GORVERMENT

  • Thibi Sea - 2013-02-22 10:23

    SA has been sending students to cuba 4 years.they complete their studies under those condition and back home as doctors.what is special about this bunch?they must then pack their bags and come back home if they cant cope!!

  • jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2013-02-22 10:24

    Don't want to eat pork?. Here they eat chicken pieces two weeks old. It is hilarious really, suddenly they are experiencing communism first hand and now it isn't to their liking. They should have send Blade to sort them out.

      Irene Kambo - 2013-02-22 11:31

      Typical behaviour of new SA. They think the world owes them !

  • Visser Jooste - 2013-02-22 10:25

    We call it: 'biting the hand that feeds you'! Another 'culture' the ANC needs to root out if they're serious about saving this country.

  • hugenote1980 - 2013-02-22 10:26

    I have trained many of these "Cuban" students when they return to SA to complete their final year of medicine. I don't know what they do there, but they definitely don't learn medicine. They get afforded an opportunity that very few are priviledged to and still they DEMAND more. $700 is more than what many doctors in that country earn as they have a completely socialist economy. Their studies are funded entirely by the government. It costs parents at least R50 000 a year to let their child study medicine. The course is 6 years. This doesn't even include accommodation, food etc. I say grant them their wish. Bring these ungrateful brats home. Let them look for employment like the millions other unemployed youths.

      tienie.vorster1 - 2013-02-22 10:36

      Please give us there names and surnames i bet this kids are all from political parents

  • jan.nel.756 - 2013-02-22 10:34

    Let the cuban government sort them out

  • Lucky - 2013-02-22 10:42

    you cannot fathom the mentality that prevails!! what absolute morons and they will return here as medical doctors!! this is the "give me" mentality of africa, no-one is prepared to actually work to achieve.

  • Lucky - 2013-02-22 10:44

    cancel their grants with immediate effect and let them make their own way home. this is my money being spent on these morons and i say no more!

  • zah.sibiya - 2013-02-22 11:09

    Spoilt brats. Let them come back .

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