Durban - President Jacob Zuma said self-education helped him look younger and better than his uneducated peers in his home village who had not improved themselves.
He had fought against all the odds to educate himself and, as a result, was now able to crisscross the world and mix with highly educated professionals, he said.
The president was addressing thousands at a children’s Christmas party held at Nxamalala village in Nkandla on Sunday.
Encouraging the children to take education seriously, Zuma told them
poverty in his family had stopped his formal education.
“But, while looking after livestock, I would take time to educate myself. If I had not educated myself I would be looking very old by now. I realise this when I see people I grew up with here and who have not been educated.
“I’m looking younger because I’m educated,” he said.
Zuma said his Jacob Zuma Trust Fund and Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust had benefited about 2 000 young people and improved the lives of many families.
His education drive was in honour of Nelson Mandela who had passion for children and education, he said.
“Mandela gave his love to children and he loved to see them educated. He also encouraged adults to get educated.
“ He had an idea of a future South Africa with a bright future for children,” he said.
While parents and dignitaries, including government ministers, listened to speeches in a huge marquee, younger children were playing on a jumping castle.
There were also various artists on hand to provide music. Businesses and the Department of Social Welfare handed out toys, wheelchairs, groceries and clothes.
Some young people, whose higher education had been funded by Zuma’s trusts, came to the function wearing graduation gowns.
Looking at them Zuma said:
“These graduates have achieved more than being able to write a letter to Johannesburg.
“While I’m only able to count thousands of rand, these people are now able to count trillions of rand, something which I cannot do.”
The graduates told how, before getting Zuma’s bursary, their families would often go to bed on empty stomachs.
About 30 of the graduates were on the stage to explain how a higher education had changed their lives.
“Now I’m able to go to the ATM and withdraw cash. I’m now able to bring groceries for my family.
“If it was not for this bursary I would now be a criminal and abusing drugs,” said one of the graduates.
After benefiting from Zuma’s trust, Nomzamo Magwaza and Thuthukile Zuma started Rural Reflect, a helpdesk to provide information to young people about education.