Durban - A young man who realised his dream of becoming a doctor is set on building his elderly mother her own home.
Nhlanhla Mngadi, 26, who graduated from Cuba with a medical degree treated a number of patients at RK Khan Hospital for the very first time as a medical intern, within the family medicine (psychiatry) unit.
It was the culmination of a journey that started in 2011, when he and hundreds of other poor South African children left their homes to study medicine in Cuba.
Now Mngadi’s biggest mission is to build his 64 year-old mother a home that she can be proud of.
Speaking about his first day of work Mngadi said “I am extremely excited but I’m also a bit nervous because I’m not sure what to expect.
"The responsibility on my shoulders is huge. Working as a doctor is unlike being a student. There’s nervousness, which I guess is normal."
Speaking about his studies Mngadi said he was grateful to the government for the opportunity to attend the medical programme in Cuba.
"I left in 2011, not knowing what challenges I would face. We’ve come a long way, now we must go back to our communities and serve them. If it not been for the RSA-Cuba Medical Training programme, becoming a doctor for a child from an impoverished home would have only been but a pipe dream."
Mngadi’s father passed away when he was eight, leaving his mother – a lowly-paid rad maintenance worker who is now a pensioner– to raise him and his six siblings.
He says his journey has been a difficult one, and singles out humility, hard work and perseverance as factors that have contributed to his success so far.
“There are lots of challenges along the way, but if you remain headstrong and work hard, you can achieve.
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who accompanied Mngadi to work describes his story as a heartwarming example of how government continues to change the lives of young people, their families and communities at large through this programme.
“What we see in the life of Dr Mngadi are the fruits of perseverance from his side. It’s a good story to tell about our country. He comes from a poverty-stricken community that nobody knew could produce a doctor. He carries the burden to become a good doctor, but also to eradicate poverty at his home. His mother and sisters must look up to him for a better life. So we are very thankful for this programme because not only has it produced doctors, it has also produced champions who are going to eradicate poverty in their communities."
Since 1997, 940 KwaZulu-Natal medical students have been enrolled in Cuba, thanks to an agreement signed by former Presidents Nelson Mandela and his Cuban counterpart Fidel Castro. The programme was then pioneered by the then Minister for Health Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. It has since produced 127 doctors; while 438 are still studying in Cuba; and 291 are now completing their studies in South Africa.