Durban - Funeral arrangements are being made for the two Cuba-based KwaZulu-Natal medical students who drowned during a party last week. The two, Sibusiso Thanks Ngeleka and Sihle Cebo Makhaye were part of a group who had hired a house to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Ngeleka was a fourth year student, while Makhaye was in his fifth year of medical studies.
On Wednesday, Doctor Sibongiseni Dhlomo, visited Ngeleka’s family at their home on the KZN South Coast. He confirmed that plans are being made to repatriate the bodies of the two men.
Dhlomo noted that Ngeleka’s death was particularly difficult for him as he and the 24-year old often interacted to resolve challenges regarding his studies. During his visit accompanied by Sigungu Shangase, Chaplain at the Health Department and officials from the Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality, Dhlomo said the death of any medical student, particularly those studying in Cuba, is always sad and a major setback for the affected families, community and the country.
“When these youngsters are recruited, we prioritise those who are academically bright, but who also come from poor homes that cannot afford to pay for their studies. When they get into the programme we then expect a lot from them, including graduating and coming back to help the country to address the shortage of doctors,” Dhlomo said.
He said these students are expected to grow and develop themselves, their families and their communities.
“When you empower one child from a poor background, it actually means that their own children and future generations will not need bursaries. Similarly, we had hoped that these two will also come back and become notable members of the community. But now we are in mourning. We are in great pain, but our pain cannot compare to that which is felt by their families,” Dhlomo said.
He will visit the Makhaye family home at Umhlabuyalingana, in KZN north, this weekend.
While Dhlomo hoped that the mortal remains of both students’ will be repatriated from Cuba to South Africa by the middle of next week, as the necessary processes, including post-mortems, are yet to be completed.
Since its inception in 1996, the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical training programme has enabled South Africa to begin to address the shortage of doctors in the country by sending young aspirant doctors from poor communities for medical training in Cuban universities, while also recruiting some Cuban doctors to local shores. There are currently 2885 South African medical students in Cuba in various levels of study. No fewer than 590 doctors have already qualified from the training programme, while 98 students are doing their final year in South African medical schools.