Torture in Cuba
March 2013
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'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 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withdrawn six other students from the six-year-long project after they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

. 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

local universities.

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

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.

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