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Cuba-trained medical students ready to serve

The students will complete their sixth-year studies and integration into the South African health system.

Zazi Zulu is one of the 260 fifth-year medical students who are pleased to be back home after having left South Africa to study medicine in Cuba six years ago.

He left his home in the Umgungundlovu District of KwaZulu-Natal in 2012 as a starry-eyed 17-year-old matriculant to pursue his dream of studying medicine.Zazi Zulu using a microscope during his studies in Cuba.

Zulu was one of the bursary recipients who was awarded an opportunity to study abroad as part of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro (NMFC) medical collaboration programme of the Department of Health.

Through the programme, the department awards qualifying and deserving students an opportunity to study medicine in Cuba free of charge.

The NMFC programme was established by presidents Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro in 1996 as part of the various bilateral agreements between South Africa and Cuba.

The programme was established to address the over-concentration of health personnel in urban areas and in the exclusionary private sector; insufficient personnel who were also not in possession of the necessary training and the under-provision of health care in rural and peri-urban areas, as well as informal settlements.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently welcomed the students back into the country.

Minister Motsoaledi was accompanied by his Deputy Joe Phaahla together with families and loved ones to welcome the fifth-year medical students at a ceremony held at OR Tambo International Airport.

The students will complete their sixth-year studies and integration into the South African health system. They will spend the next 18 months of study at various South African universities, and will then be dispatched to their districts of origin to start working as doctors.

Upon arrival, Zulu said he was happy to be reunited with his family of ten members. Each one of them wore a specially-designed black T-shirt with the words ‘Dr Zazi Zulu’ and carried a big banner with the message: “Welcome Back, Mageba.”

“I am very pleased with the warm reception that we have received upon our return. I am looking forward to applying all the knowledge that I have gained in Cuba. I want to use my skills and expertise and work with diligence for the benefit of my fellow compatriots,” he said.  

Did you know?

About 590 doctors have already qualified from the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro (NMFC) medical collaboration programme since it started in 1996.