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‘Poor conditions in Cuba bring students home’

DURBAN 22032013 Shanice Moodley. PICTURE: Jacques Naude

DURBAN 22032013 Shanice Moodley. PICTURE: Jacques Naude

Published Mar 25, 2013


Durban - When Shanice Moodley left KwaZulu-Natal for Cuba to study medicine through a Department of Health 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 received.

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 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The Mercury reported on Friday that the Department of Health had withdrawn six other students from the six-year-long project after they had been involved in a protest to demand more pocket money and better food. 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 families.

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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.

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“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”.

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“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 university 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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