Zuma celebrates young achievers at Youth Day event

2015-06-16 18:12
President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma

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Pretoria - From a 20-year-old doctor to an 18-year-old pilot, South Africa has a good story to tell when it comes to its youth.

This is according to President Jacob Zuma, who was speaking at the commemoration of Youth Day in Tshwane on Tuesday.

"While working to solve all the problems affecting young people, we are also celebrating the achievements of our youth."

He said the young guests he had invited to the event were "outstanding" individuals who had done well in their respective fields.

"They are an example of what South African youth is capable of achieving and what many were already doing across the country.

Among them was South Africa's youngest medical doctor, Sandile Khubeka, who completed his degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal aged 20.

'The Americans named a mini-planet after him'

Rocket scientist Siyabulela Xuza, 25, from Mthatha had studied energy engineering at Harvard University, Zuma said.

"The Americans named a mini-planet after him because of his achievements. We also have the youngest pilot in the country, if not the world, our 18-year-old Grade 12 learner Marcelle Nienaber."

Nienaber told News24 afterwards that she had been fascinated by aircraft from a young age during her travels.

"My dad works oversees and we've been flying since I was small. I was always fascinated [by planes]. I got the opportunity when I went to high school. They have a flight academy from Grade 8 to 12."

Nienaber said she was the youngest female pilot to fly solo at the age of 15, and got her flying licence at 17.

Dakalo Mavhungu, 23, from Tshakuma village in Venda, is the youngest skydiver in the SA National Defence Force.

'I feel blessed and motivated'

He joined the SANDF at the age of 19 in 2011 and currently works in the chemical biological radiation defence unit.

"I  was 22 when they told me I'm the youngest skydiver. I feel blessed and motivated. I must keep up the good work. Now I want to study medicine, I want to become a medical officer."

Although the youngsters had dreamt big and achieve their dreams, this is not the case for others.

Thuliswa Maqungo, 25, from Katlehong, came to the event dressed in her old school uniform. She is one of many young South Africans who have had to drop out of school due to lack of funding.

"I applied [and went] to tertiary, but I had to drop out because when you don't have money at home things become difficult.

"The [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] couldn't pay and I couldn't stay there anymore because we couldn't afford to keep paying the rent and my groceries."

She said she has been trying to apply for bursaries and learnerships since then, but to no avail.

"Even the opportunities that are available, they don't seem to be for everyone. I'm no longer motivated to keep applying, but I don't want to lose hope. I don't want to just sit at home and do nothing," she said.

Her friend Ndileka Mafumba, 22, said seeing the young achievers on stage gave her hope.

"I was so inspired because they are where they are because of hard work."

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  pretoria  |  youth day

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