DA calls on DIRCO and Treasury to assure SA medical students in Cuba are brought home

The DA calls on the Department of Health to work with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to ensure that struggling South African medical students in Cuba who want to return home, are brought home safely.

We have received complaints from students that their stipends from the Department of Health have not been paid since May.

The Nelson-Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Program was established to give students from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to study in Cuba on full scholarships. This program has been mired with faults since inception leaving students stranded in a foreign country without sufficient stipends, poor quality accommodation and food, and limited access to necessities such as toiletries and sanitary pads.

In addition to these poor living and learning conditions, recent reports have come to light that students have not received their stipends since May. Government’s reasoning for this is that international payments to the students go through United States financial systems, and since there is an embargo on Cuba, these monies have been paid, but have not made it in the hands of students. It seems that these students are getting the short end as a result of poor management and planning on the part of the Department.

We call on National Treasury to intervene and ensure stipends paid are released and paid to the students.

The South African government cannot continue to send students to Cuba, only to leave them with the bare minimum needed to survive.