Families prepare to welcome home medical students from Cuba

2018-07-07 22:54
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Nearly 400 South African students, some of whom have not seen their families since 2012, will arrive back from Cuba this weekend where they have been studying medicine. 

Deputy President David Mabuza and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi will hold a reception ceremony for 260 students who arrive at  OR Tambo International in Johannesburg on Saturday evening. 

According to the KwaZulu-Natal health department, another group made up of 106 students will be reunited with their loved ones at King Shaka International Airport at 12:00 on Sunday.

There will be little time to relax, however, as the students will spend the next 18 months finishing up their studies at universities across the country. They will then be sent to various health facilities where they will put on their white coats and stethoscopes, to start their careers off as doctors.

"The return of these students adds to the much needed pool of qualified doctors that will contribute to a better health for the country and its population", said Mabuza in a statement issued by the presidency.

"This is a historic and profoundly significant moment in the country's history as it coincides with the celebration of the centenary year of Dr Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu," said KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who will be at the airport in Durban to welcome the students home.

A statement issued by the KZN Health department reads that it was then President Nelson Mandela and his Cuban counterpart Fidel Castro who signed a pact in 1994 promoting diplomatic relations between South Africa and Cuba. This gave rise to the SA-Cuba Health Cooperation Agreement, which led to the Cuba-SA medical doctor training programme.

The returning students are part of the 2885 South African medical students currently in Cuba at various levels of study.

Five hundred and ninety doctors have already qualified from the training programme since it started in 1996, while 98 students are doing their final year at South African medical schools.

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