One hundred students from impoverished households in the province jetted off to Russia at the weekend to pursue their studies in various fields.

They were afforded the opportunity to study abroad in the fields of medicine, civil engineering, veterinary science, mathematics and science education by the provincial government at the cost of R15m.

The programme is part of a bilateral agreement between the countries of South Africa and Russia.

The sending-off ceremony for the students was presided over by education MEC Reginah Mhaule in White River near Mbombela on Saturday.

Mhaule said the provincial government was confident that upon completion of their studies, the students would play a vital role in addressing the shortage of skills faced by the province, especially in the fields of engineering and medicine.

According to Mhaule, 23 of the students will be studying civil engineering and 57 will be studying medicine.

The other 14 will be studying veterinary science and six will study mathematics and science education.

“I am also grateful that the understanding between the two countries has afforded a total of 100 students from the province at a cost of R15m to study in Russia,” Mhaule said.

She said the students were not only selected because they were from needy families but as a result of their excellent Grade 12 results.

“You were chosen because you have produced good marks in your Grade 12 examinations. As a province, we therefore do not expect anything less from you.

“We are convinced that we have chosen only the best to take part in this programme.

“Please note that the way of life in Russia, language, culture, food and weather is very different from South Africa so stay focused on your mission at hand. Value your objectives to study at all times and please don’t allow homesickness to distract you from your main goals,” Mhaule said.

France Nyaka