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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal medical students expelled from Cuban universities for various misdemeanors will be given a second chance to pursue studies in the medical field, but they won’t become doctors.

This is what provincial Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo told 200 medical students at a meeting at Durban’s Addington Hospital on Monday ahead of their return to Cuba to resume their studies this week after a break.

Dhlomo said six of their colleagues had been expelled from the course.

The programme to study medicine in Cuba is for students from underprivileged areas who would otherwise not have the means.

One student was ejected after he was arrested for being drunk and in possession of drugs. Another faced disciplinary action for alcohol abuse, misbehaviour and damaging university property. Another was sent packing after making a fellow student pregnant. Another was back after being diagnosed with TB but would resume his studies when he recovered. Three others, who started the course last year, had been expelled. Their explusion was believed to be for academic inadequacy.

Their expulsion did not mean the end of their ambitions, Dhlomo said.


He said the department would “rechannel” them to other training options in the medical field and still fund their studies.

“This could be as, for example, a nutritional adviser, or part of another programme, so they pay back the government in time.

“We would rather bring them into another programme and count those years they've done in Cuba and say; add more, now you can do nursing training or nutritional advisory training so it’s three plus another three - you owe us six years in service.”

He pleaded with the 200 students to “behave” in Cuba.

“No amount of pleading from the South African government has allowed the expelled students back to Cuba,” he said.

Khululeka Ngcobo, 25, a fifth-year student in Cuba said life there was difficult and one needed “discipline to survive”.

“South Africans party, but Cubans party hard. We have high expectations when we leave only to find out things are the total opposite. Their food is different from ours. They cook bananas, you eat banana with rice,” he said.

He said beef was expensive and reserved for the “elite”.

Another student, who asked to remain unidentified, said some students got up to mischief because they were homesick.

The Mercury