Free State Premier Ace Magashule believes the province’s international bursary scheme won’t backfire but will instead help stimulate its economy by equipping its youth with advanced skills/
Speaking during the inaugural TNA Conversation hosted in Mangaung this morning, Magashule responded to a question on whether the province risked triggering a brain drain by sending pupils to study overseas, who may opt not to return.
Magashule said he was confident that the province’s “investment” would bear fruit.
“What drives our students is passion and what will make them future leaders is passion, passion for the communities they come from,” Magashule said.
The provincial government has embarked on the bursary scheme as part of its Operation Hlasela service delivery programme and has since 2009 sent top performing students to study overseas, particularly to BRICS countries.
In January, 128 top students were sent to study in Brazil.
Noting the concerns of a possible brain drain, provincial education MEC Phi Makgoe said that the provincial government had signed contracts with students where they committed to return and serve their community.
“The contracts are clear that they have to come back to South Africa and we will have the first option as the government to retain them in our institutions,” Makgoe said.
Makgoe said that in the case where a returning student had studied a rare skill, which the provincial government was unable to accommodate, they would be shifted to other entities such as state-owned enterprises that could utilise their skills.
With approximately 3000 medical students currently studying in Cuba, panelists also raised concerns about the capacity to absorb and provide employment for all the returning students.
Magashule said that he had issued an instruction to all municipalities across the province to ensure that returning graduates are hired.
“They are qualified and can’t stay at home and we have said to our municipalities that they should employ these graduates. By the end of December, every municipality in the province should ensure that it has employed capable engineers as well as accountants from the pool of graduates,” Magashule said.
Andre Cronje, who is currently studying nuclear physics in Russia, said he was seeing how economies across the world functioned and he is going to come back and implement the best of what they are doing.
Mogomotsi Kibiti, a medical student studying in Cuba, criticised doctors who study abroad but don’t want to come back and work in their disadvantaged communities.
“In Cuba, we have learnt to be patriotic and become loyal to our community. We know that our communities are waiting for us and we can’t abandon them for Canada or Australia. We are coming back to serve the community,” Kibiti said.