Two-hundred Ghanaian students are expected to leave for Cuba this year on scholarship to begin a six-year program in medicine.
The opportunity is under an agreement between the governments of Ghana and Cuba, with support from the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Foundation.
The students comprise both undergraduate and postgraduate students from various schools across the country.
Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the Minister of Health, has consequently charged them to be prepared to work in remote areas of Ghana on their return to enable the country to attain an equitable distribution of health professionals across the country.
“The President wishes that the kind of services provided by the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital is replicated everywhere in the country,” the Minister said. “Once it has been given to you, you have to give back to society. So don’t think that you will be coming back to Ghana to be in the cities. The people in the hinterlands need your services too, and that is patriotism.”
Agyemang-Manu made the remarks when he met some of the beneficiaries in Accra last Tuesday to bid them farewell.
“There are districts with just one doctor per hospital who work for 24 hours every day, and some do not have doctors at all,” he explained. “That doesn’t help the fair delivery of quality health care. When we are distributing quality health care fairly, we need to have good doctors in all districts and villages.”
He urged the students to be hardworking and disciplined in order to achieve excellence.
Agyemang-Manu noted that the tuition fees of close to $55,000 per student for the entire period
would be funded with some locked-up funds of Ghana in Cuba.
“The government had some $26 million locked up in Cuba for a very long time which had not been pursued,” he said. “So we came to a compromise with the Cuban government that they will provide us with such services to offset the debt since they could not pay us the money anytime soon.”
He added that part of the money would also be used to fund a malaria control project and other projects that the government was pursuing.
Pedro Luis Despaigne González, Cuban ambassador to Ghana, wished the students the best of luck and challenged them to stay focused on their studies.
“You need to believe in yourself and work hard in the interest of your country,” González said. “Trust the education that you will receive, and be sure that once you return to Ghana, you will be able to contribute immensely to health care delivery in Ghana.”
Meanwhile, students who have benefited from the project earlier and have completed their studies will return home in July.