|It was a sombre moment as a group of medical students texted their friends and
shared last moments of goodbyes before embarking on 3 day trip to Cuba to begin
their medical studies. These are students who were selected from rural
communities and poor backgrounds that will spend the next six years in a foreign
country in order to come back and serve their community.
“Goodbye is never a nice thing especially when you leave behind a disabled parent who has taken care of you through thick and thin,” said the 21 year old Khetha Zondo who comes from Mandeni. He was saying goodbye to his aunt, Nonhlanhla Mzimela and younger sister Nomthandazo Mpungose.
“I must admit that our sadness is filled with joy because we see our children going away to fulfil their life long dreams. We are indebted to this government and the Department because we had all resolved that he would have to forget about studies even though he obtained good matric results,” added Ms Mzimela who is on crutches.
"I feel as if I'm standing on the backs of all my ancestors. This is a huge opportunity for me," Nozwe Magwetya, a 21-year-old yet another medical student leaving for Cuba. "Nobody in my family has ever had the chance to be a doctor." Magwetya's mother works in a supermarket.
"I wanted to be a doctor, but I wasn't sure how to get into medicine. I had decent grades, but I didn't have any money, and even applying to medical school cost a lot."
Initiated by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma 16 years ago, the South Africa – Cuba Medical Training Programme has produced doctors who serve rural communities. The 10 from KwaZulu-Natal will join 70 more from other Provinces. To date, 304 medical doctors have been produced out of 808 recruited in the programme, with 406 currently undergoing medical training in Cuba; 98 (13 from KwaZulu-Natal) are doing final year and will return in June next year.
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