22 February 2013

South Africa: Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande Condemns Medical Students' Protest in Cuba

press release

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, has added his voice in strongly condemning the protest by South African students studying medicine in Cuba, and have stayed away from classes demanding a bigger amount of the stipend they receive as part of their study grant.

"If they are demanding something that is a privilege, as if it is a right and threatening to come back home, then maybe they should do just that and open up that opportunity for other equally deserving young people who are thirsty for such opportunities," Dr Nzimande said.

About 187 students studying medicine in Cuba have embarked on protest action and a hunger strike, threatening to return to South Africa if their demands for a $500 increase to the $200 (+-R1 600) monthly stipend they receive, bringing it up to $700 (+-R5 600).

"The sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude displayed by these students who come from a country with such high levels of desperate need for higher education and training, and limited state resources, is totally unacceptable. I condemn it in the strongest terms," Minister Nzimande said.

The South African government spends about R500 000 per student over six years for a language course, medical training and living expenses in Cuba. Minister Nzimande added that the action of the students was threatening opportunities for other deserving South African students, particularly those from poor backgrounds, from benefitting from the long standing cooperation that exists between the two countries where a number of South Africa's medical doctors and other professionals have received training in Cuba.

"The level of need for higher education and training opportunities is very high in the country, and the state resources are extremely limited in comparison and through this long-standing cooperation with Cuba, government is going some way in broadening access and increasing the number of adequately trained medical professionals," said Dr Nzimande.

A year ago Minister Nzimande signed a bilateral agreement with his Cuban counterpart which was aimed at strengthening relations in the area of education between the two countries and at the same time encourages mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries.

"We will continue to build on the work that is already underway, and actually take it to a higher level which will include lecturer and student exchanges as well as research collaboration amongst our higher education institutions. A lot more deserving students are ready for these opportunities," Minister Nzimande said.

Issued on behalf of the Ministry for Higher Education and Training

Vuyelwa Qinga

Chief Director: Media Management

Tel: 012 312 5538/39

Cell: 076 883 4144

E-mail: Qinga.V@dhet.gov.za

Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training

22 Feb 2013

Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training

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