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Students jet off to Russia to study

By Sibongile Mashaba | 2017-10-01 16:41:35.0

Samukelo Phungwayo was in Grade 11 when he applied for a scholarship with the Mpumalanga provincial government in 2015.

The 19-year-old matriculant never got a response until a few months ago when he was told he would be part of the 100 first-year tertiary students who will jet off to Russia to further their studies.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, an ecstatic Phungwayo recalls the call: "I had even forgotten that I had applied for a bursary.

"I applied when I was in Grade 11 because I wanted to make sure that I received it so that I can pursue my dream of becoming a civil engineer."

Phungwayo's mother is unemployed while his father works as a prison warder.

"They would not be able to afford my fees if it were not for this bursary. I do not know what I would do. I am happy and grateful for the opportunity," he said.

Phungwayo said the opportunity would allow him to uplift his family and afford them a better future.

On Tuesday, Mpumalanga education MEC Reginah Mhaule hosted dozens of beneficiaries during a send-off ceremony in White River.

There are 103 second-year students under the South Africa/Russia international study programme. It has been running for two years now.

Premier David Mabuza's agreements with China and Italy have also afforded students from Mpumalanga opportunities to study abroad.

"The province is currently supporting 4800 students in different universities throughout the country. We have allocated R210-million to cater for students studying within SA and abroad," Mhaule said.

"Included in this are 203 students who will be furthering their studies in the fields of medicine, engineering and teaching as well as technology aviation, which were recently introduced."

She said the bursary covered 100% tuition fees, books, meals, accommodation and a monthly stipend. "As things stand, no child may be denied education because his/her parents are unable to afford university fees. Today's occasion is enough evidence of that fact.

"Please make sure you are at all times clean, healthy and strong. Refrain from unprotected sex and please know that at this stage, as I previously informed you, we are only interested in your degrees and not babies," Mhaule told the group.

The students will leave in groups.

Phungwayo from Witbank will board a flight for the first time in his life on October 9.

Another beneficiary, 19-year-old Maqhawe Hlongwane from Mayflower, is a second year medicine student.

"Last year I started with language and this year I will start with my degree in medicine. It is a dream come true," Hlongwane, an orphan, said.

He said he wanted to become a doctor so that he can help change people's lives by giving them better healthcare.