Namibian graduates in Cuba in limbo over return

At least 150 Namibian medical graduates who studied in Cuba are stranded after their flights got cancelled at the last minute.

The graduates say they continue facing significant challenges in Cuba.

Some of the affected graduates who spoke to The Namibian say out of the 173 Namibian medical students who graduated from the University of Medical Sciences in Havana, Cuba, in July, several are encountering layovers of more than 20 hours, while others are still in Cuba, uncertain about their return dates.

The graduates’ programme is part of an academic cooperation agreement between Namibia and Cuba.

One of the graduates who spoke on condition of anonymity says five out of the 175 graduates have managed to return to Namibia thus far, while seven remain stuck in layovers lasting over 20 hours.

The first group of five and the additional seven graduates were informed of their departure just a few hours before their scheduled flights, the graduate says.

Another graduate says those facing layovers have not received additional funding to cover their costs or accommodation.

The rest are still in Cuba without clarity on their return plans or financial assistance.

The graduates say they have repeatedly contacted the Ministry of Health and Social Services, expressing their urgent need to return home, especially because some of them have medical issues which have not been covered by their medical aid.

Executive director of health and social services Ben Nangombe yesterday expressed frustration with some of the graduates who have taken matters into their own hands by contacting the agency contracted by the ministry, causing interference and delays in the process.

“The ministry is in charge of the travel arrangements for the graduates, some of whom have started engaging with the agency. Graduates need to allow the ministry to do its job to ensure correct and timely repatriation of these students back home.”

Nangombe said the interference was unacceptable and caused further delays.

He said the ministry has paid for the transcription of documents along with graduates’ last stipend.

He said the ministry would make the necessary arrangements for further support in case of delays or additional needs.

One student, however, says: “We stayed in Cuba because we had to wait for our qualifications to be transcribed, and the Cuban organisation responsible for the translation informed us that our qualifications would be ready by 7 September.”

Another graduate says the ministry was aware of this and had informed them that their tickets would only be purchased once the documents had been transcribed.

Last week, the health ministry released two lists of names of graduates and their expected departure dates, which were initially set for 3 to 9 September.

However, these lists did not include all the affected students.

The students say they have covered the transcription costs of their documents along with their parents, since the ministry has failed to do so.

Furthermore, upon receiving the translated documents, numerous errors were identified.

As a result, many documents had to be rectified, with some graduates still facing issues with their documents.

Additionally, they say throughout their seven-year course, they have faced delays in receiving stipends, often relying on their families for financial support.

All 175 students are expected to be assessed by the Health Professions Councils of Namibia.

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