A group of 10 aspiring medical students from Limpopo jetted off to Cuba recently to pursue studies as part of a South Africa-Cuba health agreement.
Training of medical students abroad is part of the Limpopo health department's commitment to increase the pool of medical professionals particularly in rural areas. The students will join 58 other medical students who are currently studying in Cuba through the South Africa-Cuba Joint Academic Programme.
Since the launch of the programme 15 years ago, 155 students from KwaZulu-Natal have completed the programme adding muchneeded numbers to the small team of medical doctors in the province's public health sector.
In June, a team of academics from Cuba visited the province to discuss the programme with their South African counterparts, as well as to celebrate 15 years of the programme.
Speaking to the students in Durban before they departed, KZN MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said, "We are very grateful for the continued partnership with Cuba which has not only produced excellent doctors but has allowed our young professionals to learn from one of the best health systems in the world."
He told students that they needed to respect the Cubans and their way of life, but most importantly to "remember that you are our ambassadors".
Realising a dream
One excited student who left for Cuba was 19 year old Mnqobi Mngadi from uMkhambathini. He is the youngest of five children and his mother is a single parent who works in the Expanded Public Works Programme in Zibambeleni, where they clean and repair roads.
"I take this opportunity with both hands and I will now realise my dream of becoming a doctor. It seemed impossible because my mother would not have been able to afford university fees," said Mngadi.
Serve the community
The group left for Cuba on 20 September and will be accompanied by MEC Dhlomo and other officials of the department. They will study in Cuba for six years after which they will join the South African public health sector for internships and community service in the area where they came from.
Since the implementation of the SA-Cuba Health Agreement, the Limpopo Department of Health has sent 170 students to Cuba for medical studies. To date, 31 have completed their studies and are practicing medicine in different facilities in the province.