I was reading Fidel Castro con los intelectuales: Nuestro Deber Es Luchar. A fascinating dialogue between a number of individuals in struggle and the leader of the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro. I came across this bit as part of a discussion on Cuban doctors and medical system:
Cmdte (Fidel Castro): No se si tu sabes que desde entonces estan estudiando aqui case 500 paquistaníes que ya están a punto de hacerse medicos. Tremendos estudiantes! … están en Santa Clara, trabajando en los hospitales, y buenos medicos..
Abel Prieto: Son 906 estudiantes paquistaníes en Cuba.
Cmdte: En que grado están ya, en cuarto o quinto?
Randy Alonso: En cuarto ano, la mayoría.
Cmdte: Terminan este ano el cuarto, les quedan dos, pero ellos van a su pais para realizar las practicas. Novecientos seis estudiantes, y son muy buenos estudiantes.
The Cuban government gave nearly a 1000 Pakistani medical students a full scholarship, including tuition, books, boarding and lodging, and the Pakistani government provided 50 Euros per month as stipent…
So as to be expected, ’cause of the distance, cultural differences, and a host of other factors, not all went as planned during the first year – and there was even a protest against the conditions, especially at issue was if their studies would be recognized in Pakistan. The major issues were resolved, and the students are expected to return to Pakistan in 2013-2014:
ISLAMABAD – The Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Wednesday said that Pakistani medical students in Cuba have shown remarkable performance among students from over 120 countries. Over 900 Pakistani students are pursuing medical studies funded by the government of Cuba. The results for the academic year 2010-11 show that the cumulative result of Pakistani students was 99.67 percent followed by Ecuador 98.28 percent, Bolivia 97.69 percent, China 97.28 percent and Nicaragua 96.77 percent, said a press release issued by the HEC. The scholarship of Pakistani students includes tuition fee, books, free laundry, halal food, lodging, health insurance and other miscellaneous expenditures. In addition, the government of Pakistan is providing a monthly stipend of 50 euros per month to all the students and return air ticket.
The first batch of 310 students has completed four years of medical study along with a comprehensive course in Spanish and their fifth year will start by the end of February 2012. The second batch of 602 students has completed three years of medical study along with a comprehensive course in Spanish and their fourth year will also start by the end of February 2012. The students would return to Pakistan in 2013 and 2014, after successful completion of their studies in Cuba. It is expected that these students would be able to make a substantial contribution to improve the health sector of Pakistan and would also further strengthen the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Cuba.
The 2005 Pakistan earthquake (also known as the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the South Asian earthquake or the Great Pakistan Earthquake) was a major earthquake centered in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) near the city of Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. In the International response to the 2005 Kashmir earthquake many countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations offered relief aid to the affected regions. Cuba also offered 1000 scholarships in medicine for Pakistani students. The project was handed over to Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. HEC (Pakistan) has divided students into two batches. The first batch of approximately 384 students went from Pakistan to Cuba in February 2007 and second batch in July 2008. According to the ELAM rule for foreign students, they received a one-year language course in Spanish which also includes a premedical certificate. After the successful completion of their Spanish language course, all the students moved to the original campuses of ELAM (University of Medical Sciences). These ELAM campuses are highly ranked medical institutes attached to well equipped hospitals. For Pakistani students all the medical professors are specialists at least 30 years experience. These Pakistani students are studying with students of 50 countries and will receive an MD degree from Escuela Latino Americana De Medicina (ELAM) on completion of their medical course.
Mission of ELAM for Pakistani students is to make competent doctors with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, as offered to medical graduates in the USA and Canada. The Latin American School of Medicine is officially recognized by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and the World Health Organization. It is also fully accredited by the Medical Board of California, which has the strictest US standards – which means that qualified US graduates of the Latin American School of Medicine are eligible to apply for residency placements in any state of the US..
See also Salud a documentary on Cuba’s medical / health care system, and especially focused on Cuba’s internationalism.
The initial disorganization with respect to the Pakistani medical students were unfortunate, one would hope that care will be taken in the future – especially as relations between the peoples of Muslim majority nations and Cuba, and really all of America Latina, is relatively new, and still developing. No doubt there will be more road bumps ahead – but most can be prevented with some planning – and especially so that we don’t lose our respective focuses.