Durban - A medical student from KwaZulu-Natal has been expelled from a Cuban school for falling pregnant.
The young mother may only be back home next month, because she is waiting for her child to be six months old before taking the long flight.
The Cuban medical school had barred her from continuing with her second-year studies, Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, told the Daily News on Thursday.
The MEC was at King Shaka International Airport bidding farewell to 13 students who would be studying in Cuba as part of an agreement between the two countries.
He urged the students to regard each other as siblings and not to get pregnant.
Dhlomo said he had visited the expelled student during his visit to Cuba in December.
A South African fifth-year student was the father, he said.
He said he would ask Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, to talk with Cuban authorities to have the student reinstated.
“This is a problem because most of them are coming from poor backgrounds,” said Dhlomo, adding that the students would be introduced to family planning programmes because, “having a child while studying does not mean it is the end of life”.
The study arrangement was a lifetime opportunity and should not be abused, he said, urging the students to caution each other about the pitfalls of alcohol abuse, pregnancies and abortions, stealing and fraudulent practices, as well as getting involved in “black market” activities.
Dhlomo warned them not to behave as if they were in South Africa.
“Don’t come back and say, ‘I want this and that. I don’t want to eat this, I want to eat that’. You are going there for education. There is an agreement for you to come back as doctors,” he said.
Last year, South African students at the medical school protested, demanding an increase in their monthly stipend.
They also complained about the living conditions in Cuba.
The 13 students who left this week would be joining 289 others who had left for Cuba from November to January.
A total of 310 students were meant to enrol this year.
But, six tested positive for Hepatitis B and the department was advised it was too late to replace them with other students.
A student from uThungulu could not go because of an eye problem, but if his situation improves he may still join the group. Another student from Pietermaritzburg withdrew from the programme after problems with her visa.
Dhlomo said according to Cuban authorities, for students to be accepted to study in the country, they had to meet certain requirements, including medical tests.
“It’s a clean and healthy country. They don’t want a person with communicable diseases,” he said.
Of the 1 000 South African students selected for the programme, most are from KwaZulu-Natal.