Cuban-Trained Medical Students Completing Course at UKZN

fter six years of training in Cuba, two Medical students, Mr Denvour Pabalelo Raboroko and Ms Boitumelo Mabuza, are now attached to the College of Health Sciences (CHS).

They are among 60 Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme (NMFCMCP) students welcomed to UKZN where they will complete the last 18 months of their clinical training in order to register as medical doctors with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

During the 18 months of training, the students will rotate through a variety of teaching blocks, including Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Surgery and Paediatrics. The blocks are taught in hospitals throughout KwaZulu-Natal.

Raboroko and Mabuza, are now based in Port Shepstone Hospital rotating in the Internal Medicine Block.

Discussing his background, Raboroko, originally from Limpopo, said he experienced a very difficult childhood, growing up in a home where he was abused and he suffered physical trauma at the age of seven, causing epilepsy.

Raboroko says he excelled in school and in Grade 10 he was selected to join the University of the Witwatersrand Targeting Talent programme for talented learners. Raboroko was sponsored by the Limpopo Department of Education, SANRAL and BP.

Passionate about the creative arts, Raboroko initially did not consider a career in Medicine but in Grade 12, he successfully applied for a scholarship to study Biological Sciences in Turkey but due to family issues was unable to go. In 2014, Raboroko successfully applied for the NMFCMCP scholarship and moved to Cuba at the end of that year.

Raboroko, like all South African students who are part of the programme, was given four months to learn Spanish, the home language of Cuba. He says his experiences in Cuba were very stressful, depressing and extremely demotivating, resulting in him falling ill during his fourth-year of study. He was sent back to South Africa for nine months to undergo medical, psychiatric and psychological treatment.

‘We have received 5-star treatment at UKZN. The accommodation is extremely comfortable, we have the most amazing resources available to us and the teaching staff are excellent. We have lots to learn after getting little exposure to clinical work in Cuba.

‘I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for a few strangers who helped me. I owe them my life,’ said Raboroko.

Raboroko plans to start a podcast titled: Medicine Made Easy, which will educate the public about common conditions, prevention, associated home remedies and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Mabuza, also from Limpopo, says she was inspired to pursue a career in Medicine by her blind grandmother. ‘My grandmother never saw me and because of those circumstances I wanted to get into a career where I could help people and make a difference in their lives.’

After matric, Mabuza enrolled to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg but dropped out after two years of study due to financial issues.

She then successfully applied for a Department of Health bursary and joined the NMFCMCP. ‘I love being at UKZN. It is “A” class. We get a lot of support and I am coping well.’

Mabuza plans to do a Master’s degree in Business Administration and then open her own business.

Words: Maryann Francis

Photograph: Supplied