DA urges Health Department to repatriate SA medic students struggling in Cuba
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Cape Town - The DA has urged the Department of Health to work with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) to ensure that struggling South African medical students in Cuba who want to return home, are brought home safely.
Haseena Ismail, DA member of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, said his party has 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 Programme was established to give students from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to study in Cuba on full scholarships.
“This programme 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 US 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,” Ismail said.
She said the DA was calling on the National Treasury to intervene and ensure stipends paid were 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,” Ismail said.