Zuma urges youth to succeed
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has urged the youth to do everything they can to succeed.
"Don't surrender. Fight on until you succeed, until you conquer," he told high school children at the Youth Leaders' summit at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
"Don't say because I'm an orphan or I come from a poor family I am cursed and I can't do anything," Zuma said. "Be active, work, think, do everything to succeed."
Zuma himself overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to be elected as the president of the country.
Deviating from his prepared speech, Zuma asked the youth whether they could believe that he had not gone to school.
"I worked hard and I succeeded. Some of my peers, who did not do so, have not made a contribution to the nation, even to their individual circumstances," Zuma said.
He told the youth that some of his peers had ended up spending more time drinking - to which the children burst into laughter.
Words from Mandela
Zuma told how a young former president Nelson Mandela long ago told leaders of the ANC that he would one day lead the organisation. Many thought Mandela was "crazy", Zuma said.
The president received an ardent welcome from the uniform-clad scholars. Many rushed forward to snap a picture of him with their cellphone cameras.
He apologised for his late arrival, assuring them he was not "just sitting around", but had to appoint the country's police commissioner.
"You must dream. You must have a dream and work to achieve it. In other words, you must think. You must be ambitious, but not in a wrong way," he said, adding that there was nothing the youth could not achieve.
He urged them not to be "individualistic" in their drive to succeed, but to work within a collective and be sensitive to the needs of others.
Zuma encouraged the young people to educate themselves, as this broke the cycle of poverty.
"Education is seen as the great liberator, because when you take a child from a poor household in Soweto and provide them with a quality education, you liberate that child and their family."
Zuma said the government would provide programmes which the youth could use to improve their lives and those of their peers.
The government would work to make sure all "academically deserving" students who qualified for tertiary education were supported.
"We must realise that no child should be refused access to institutions on the basis that they cannot afford it," he said.
Drugs, alcohol, HIV/Aids
He also advised them to stay away from drugs and alcohol and to avoid the risky behaviours associated with the spread of HIV/Aids.
Those abusing drugs and alcohol thought they were "clever", he said, causing his captive audience to giggle.
"In reality they are the opposite of what they claim to be."
The country needed people who were morally upright and discouraged pupils from any form of substance abuse.
"It is also important that leaders cast their eyes further in the future, and constantly warn their followers about looming dangers. I am talking here about the risky lives that youth often lead, particularly around HIV and Aids."
He said the country's youth was a subject close to his heart and the future of the country could not be talked about without acknowledging the central role played by the youth.
The summit was hosted by Youth Managers, a private body providing youth development in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and leadership.
It hosted 300 delegates from Gauteng high schools.