Arcus Makaza, from Burundi, is the head of an organization which works to promote unity and support among African students. Photo: Nuria Barbosa

Many youths from different countries currently studying in Cuban universities, above all in medical sciences, in order to support one another and contribute to solving their countries’ problems, are also members of various organizations and groups.

For example, speaking to Granma International, Arcus Makaza from Burundi and in his second year at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), stated that many African students are members of a youth organization linked to the African Union, which has invited them to participate in two of its summits held in Ethiopia.

“Our organization works to strengthen unity among we African students, in order to improve our academic results. We organize groups composed of high-achieving youth to tutor those who are having difficulties passing their subjects. We call ourselves student-helpers and offer revision sessions in our free time to explain what was taught in class,” states the young student.

The group also promotes African culture in Cuban medical universities in order to spark interest in the continent among professors, workers, and students from the island as well as those from other nations.

“We organize an annual gala at ELAM with all the countries and artistic manifestations, where we display our cultural and ethnic diversity,” stated Arcus Makaza.

The organization maintains close links with the Federation of University Students of Cuba (FEU) and the Latin American and Caribbean Continental Organization of Students (OCLAE). Amongst all, held are sports tournaments and activities in support of the Cuban Revolution such as that which take place on November 27, in honor of the eight medical students murdered in 1871 and the March of the Torches on January 27, commemorating the birth of José Martí (January 28, 1853), among others.

Venezuelans Mariangel Marcano Flores and Víctor Gabriel Cropper Conde, are members of Hugo Chávez international brigades undertaking health promotion and prevention efforts in remote communities. Photo: Nuria Barbosa

Members also organize the Cuba-Africa Friendship brigade, which celebrates the ties of solidarity between the island and the African people. “Cuba helps to combat disease in our countries, a recent example of which was the Ebola epidemic, when over 200 Cuban doctors offered services in Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone until the illness was eliminated,” stated the undergraduate from Burundi.

Meanwhile, every year African students participate on summer brigades at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, in the municipality of Caimito, Artemisa province, where they undertake voluntary agricultural work and speak with Cuban experts from various sectors of society.

For his part, Palestinian Mohammad Hammoud explained that Arab students come together to expose the truth about imperial wars being waged in the Middle East, intent on stripping the people of their natural resources and occupying land such as Israel is doing.

He went on to note, “The University supports our different activities. We organize political meetings with the participation of Cuban students and professors. We commemorate different historic dates and celebrate the most important historic events in Arab countries.”

Hammoud also highlighted the various cultural activities undertaken by students to display the lifestyles and customs of peoples from the Middle East, as well as discussions regarding Cuba’s efforts to help the peoples of the world achieve sovereignty and economic development. He noted that such meetings always feature the thoughts of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, given his visionary ideas on the main problems affecting the world today.

The Necessity of the New Man to Revolutionize the World, was the main theme of the 3rd Friends of the Revolution Nationalities Encounter, held in the University of Havana in April 2017. Photo: Nuria Barbosa

In addition, the young Palestinian noted that students are free to practice their culture and religions in Cuba: “I am a Muslim and I visit a mosque located in Old Havana. My classmates are Christians and attend masses at the churches here,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Venezuelans Mariangel Marcano Flores and Víctor Gabriel Cropper Conde, both students at the Ernesto Che Guevara de la Serna University of Medical Sciences, in Pinar del Río, explained that they are members of Hugo Chávez internationalist brigades which carry out health promotion and prevention work in remote communities.

“These student groups were founded based on an initiative promoted by Honduras which was later extended to different universities across Cuban provinces. We take a few days during the vacation period to visit vulnerable communities and explain what to do to avoid falling ill,” stated Víctor Gabriel.

Meanwhile, Mariangel noted that a Council of Venezuelan Students in Cuba was founded in order to provide logistical support of such efforts, for which they approached local government and community leaders. “We have visited Venezuelan municipalities and parishes, but also pediatric oncological hospitals to bring joy to children,” emphasized Mariangel Marcano Flores.

Both agreed that living on the island, Venezuelan students feel like Cubans, noting that they wish to take Cuba’s example of humanist values such as disinterested help, hospitality, and cooperation, back to their country, summing up their experience in a single phrase: “Cuba has taught us solidarity with humanity.”