medical graduates

Russian medical graduates to March
Stock image: Pexels

Russian medical graduates to march against alleged government incompetence

After more than a year’s battle for assistance, underprivileged Russian medical graduates plan to march in the streets of Tshwane.

medical graduates

Russian medical graduates to March
Stock image: Pexels

After more than a year’s battle for assistance with registration and integration into the South African system, underprivileged Russian medical graduates feel they have no choice but to take to the streets of Tshwane and march. 


Fifty-one unemployed foreign-trained medical doctors from the Mpumalanga government bursary programme returned to South Africa in mid-2022. They were promised assistance with funding to convert their degrees into English and an internship training programme. This would provide them with the necessary knowledge and experience to write the required Health Professions Council South Africa (HPCSA) board exams to become qualified South African medical practitioners.

As the 2023 set of 49 graduates now return home, the first group is barely any closer to being able to practice medicine in South Africa. 

Seven meetings have been held with the relevant department officials since October 2022. A note taken by one of the graduates from a meeting in December 2022 states as follows: “Graduates should not be frustrated on their way back into the country, they are children of low class, their parents are the voters who put the government in power, so they need to be assisted.” (Received via WhatsApp 20 January 2023). 

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By January 2023 most students had finally received the refunds for the cost of translating their degrees however by the fourth meeting, graduates were left feeling further frustrated with little progress. The graduates allege that they were told by Dr Sipho Mkhabela, the Russian programme director from the Department of Education, that this was just an entry-level meeting to obtain the graduates’ views and consider a few solutions.

The graduates claim they had already put forward these proposals in 2021 before their graduation in an attempt to prevent delays upon their return to South Africa. They also allege being told by Mpumalanga government officials that the media exposure from October 2022 by these graduates about their situation was ruining South Africa’s international political relationships with other countries. One student alleged that they were told to “go get a job at Checkers”.

Further meetings in February, May and July 2023 bore little fruit despite talks of finalising their registration costs and arranging a six-month integration programme where graduates would spend three months at Sefako Makgatho University followed by three months of supervised internships at provincial hospitals. The programme should have started in August 2023, however due to ongoing incompetence to arrange funding, the students are still stuck at home. 

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The graduates have issued a joint statement indicating their intention to hold a peaceful march in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. They will be joined by graduates from Gauteng and the Free State who are also experiencing similar problems. 

Details of the planned march are as follows: 

  • Date: 6 September 2023 
  • Time: 10:00
  • Starting point: Church Square, Tshwane 

Route: The march will proceed from Church Square in Tshwane central to the HPCSA offices in Arcadia, where a memorandum will be handed over. It will then conclude at the Union Buildings, where the same memorandum will be submitted.

The graduates aim to raise national awareness about the ongoing gross ineptitude, lack of urgency, and overall lacklustre attitude from all relevant department officials. They hope that through applied pressure, the necessary steps will be taken so they can become qualified medical practitioners and find meaningful employment to improve the quality of life for their families and serve their communities.  

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