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Johannesburg - Six medical students from South Africa studying on scholarship in Cuba have returned home following a disagreement about their allowance, wasting over R2 million as a result, it was reported on Friday.
The students were more than halfway through their six-year training programme, which cost the government R500,000 a student, the New Age reported.
They decided to quit after going on strike about food and their monthly allowance of R1600, which they wanted increased to around R5 600.
Dr Mzulugile Nodikida, who studied in Cuba, could not understand why the students were complaining about the allowance, as their accommodation and food was free.
Health department spokesman Joe Maila said the department was saddened by the students' decision.
“Money was the main thing that they wanted, and we made it clear that we were not going to increase their stipend,” he said.
“We are extremely disappointed, as we were doing everything for them. They are unreasonable because the issue of diet was not a big problem.”
Eastern Cape health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo backed the national department's decision.
“They (the students) have embarrassed the country and contravened the laws of Cuba,” said Kupelo.
“Most of these students come from destitute backgrounds.... The Eastern Cape has a shortage of doctors and we cannot afford this.”
According to the newspaper, the incident is the first of its kind since the programme began over a decade ago. - Sapa