'Poor conditions in Cuba bring students home'
March 25 2013 at 11:13am
By Bongani Hans
Durban – When Shanice Moodley left KwaZulu-Natal for Cuba to study
medicine through a Department of Health programme she had high hopes for
a bright future.
But they were dashed within two months, at which point she gave up her
studies and returned home because, she claims, of the treatment students
Moodley, 20, from Gingindlovu, Zululand, was among 20 students who
quit the government's skills development programme in Cuba and returned
home last month.
She said students had not been told before they left South Africa about
the difficulties they could face in Cuba.
The Mercury reported on Friday that the Department of Health had
withdrawn six other students from the six-year-long project after they
had been involved in a protest to demand more pocket money and better
food. Two of them, Zakhele Khoza and Londa Gumede, were also from
KwaZulu-Natal. The department is aware of the students' concerns.
"During orientation before leaving, (Dr Sanele) Madela, who obtained his
medical qualifications in Cuba, did not tell us about what was waiting
for us. He only told us about the high quality of doctors produced by
Cuba and how lucky we were," said Moodley.
Moodley joined the programme when she was unable to secure a place at
Moodleys' parents want the department to refund them R25 000, which they
paid as a deposit for their daughter's first year. The Cuban government
gave 100 percent bursaries to students who had no- one employed in their
However, Moodley's studies were partially subsidised since her father
Govindasamy Moodley earned a salary from a sugar mill. Her family was
required to contribute R49 800.
But the South African government gave a 100 percent subsidy for her
accommodation and meals – about R40 000 a year.
She was unhappy to find she shared a "small" room with 10 girls. The
set-up in their residence was "a torture, unhygienic and disgusting".
She shared a toilet and bathroom with 60 girls in their block.
"When we used toilets we were not allowed to flush down toilet paper, to
prevent sewerage blockages. We would throw the… paper in a bucket, which
was collected once a day."
She said they had to take "ice cold" showers, even in the "freezing"
weather as there were no geysers.
She said the food was "awful" and they had to use part of their
government-provided R1 600 monthly pocket money to buy "better food".
"On several occasions we were served leftovers which we had left in our
places the previous day. This food would be collected from the tables
and stored in the fridge," she said.
She said Deputy Health Minister Gwen Ramokgopa visited the Cuban
university in December to listen to the students' grievances.
"She met us at the campus and refused to visit our residence."
Afterwards "she said we should work hard like previous students and
left", she said.
Ramokgopa's spokesman, Khutso Rabathata,
said: "The department is interviewing students and meeting stakeholders
to investigate the complaints ," he said.