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Students jet off to Cuba to make their medical careers reality

Written by *Tebogo Oepeng
Mduduzi Mthembu’s dream of becoming a doctor seemed almost out of his grasp as the cost of his studies became too much for his family.

But thanks to a programme between the South African and Cuban governments, the 19-year-old from Kagiso, Gauteng was one of 99 youngsters in the province who were given bursaries to study medicine in Cuba.

The group left for Cuba two months ago. The SA-Cuba partnership gives high-achieving students from poor backgrounds an opportunity to study medicine in one of the world’s most noted producers of high-calibre doctors.

“I come from a fairly humble background and it was at the beginning of last year that my dream of leaving the Midrand Graduate Institute as a qualified doctor started to seem uncertain. My family simply could not afford the costly fees any longer,” said Mthembu.

“This opportunity is a blessing from God, one that I cannot afford to let go to waste.” The second of three children, Mthembu recalled the life-changing day last July when he received the news that he was selected for the bursary.

He described his excitement, saying it felt like “a lifelong dream was unfolding and finally coming true”.

The MEC of Health in Gauteng, Hope Papo, encouraged the students to remain committed to their studies so they could return home as reputable health professionals, ready to make a difference in the health sector.

Also ecstatic about the chance to become a doctor was Welkom resident Teboho Mamaseli.

The 19-year-old was one of the 122 students selected from Free State to study medicine in Cuba.

“When I applied for this amazing opportunity, I knew my chances would be slim because there are a lot of good students in the province. But my family and I prayed and I am very excited to start my new journey,” said Mamaseli.

After completing school at the Lephola Secondary School in 2010, Mamaseli dreamt of becoming a doctor but due to financial problems he could not pursue this dream.

While studying with the help of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, he received a bursary to study medicine in Cuba. Mamaseli also received a laptop from the Office of the Premier and said this had changed his life for the better.

“My deepest gratitude goes to our government, particularly the Free State Department of Health and the Premier for affording me this opportunity.”

He added that young people needed to believe in their dreams, rather than people’s opinions about who they are or what they can or can’t achieve.

“Impossible should never be part of your vocabulary. Muhammad Ali once said impossible is just an opinion; it is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing,” added Mamaseli.