From destitute to degrees: Zuma Trust graduates say he changed their lives

2016-12-29 21:06
Sifiso Khumalo has praised President Jacob Zuma for educating him. (Supplied)

Sifiso Khumalo has praised President Jacob Zuma for educating him. (Supplied)

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Nkandla - Three days after emailing President Jacob Zuma and asking for help in his quest to further his education, as he could not afford his studies, Sifiso Khumalo got a response.

“I emailed President Zuma in 2009 and I did not know him or that he was going to be the president. I told him I was 18-years-old and I was poor and needed an education… three days later the President called me," Khumalo said.

And now, thanks to the assistance by the Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust, he is now a graduate and an advocate.

Speaking to more than 5 000 people at the 15th Jacob Zuma Education Trust Children and Youth’s Christmas party at Myakanya High School in Nkandla, Khumalo criticised "wealthy business people", like Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, saying that when he knocked at their doors after he was financially excluded from Wits University, his cries fell on deaf ears.

Relaying his story, Khumalo, who now holds nine degrees, said in 2015 he had made a promise to Zuma that he would not disappoint him.

With a bag in one hand and a dream in another, he said, he flew to one of the best universities in Ireland.

"I am pleased to say that I have a master’s in business science and business management… I was the only African who graduated with that master’s, the only African in the class and only South African."

'Excluded from Wits'

Khumalo said that, about seven years ago when the world was celebrating the FIFA World Cup, "I was excluded from Wits because I owed R52 000 in my first year. I was kicked out, not because I was stupid, but because I could not afford [it]."

He said he thought of all the prominent South Africans, like Ramaphosa and Motsepe, and then emailed them.

"But they did not respond."

He then emailed Zuma and got a response three days later.

Khumalo said Zuma made a commitment that the Trust would educate him.

"He said, Khumalo, I read your story and I have instructed my Trust."

Khumalo now has nine qualifications.

"They say I am too qualified, but we need black doctors and professors," he said.

Khumalo said he told Zuma that "when you are ready to reshuffle the Cabinet and shop for new ministers, I am ready, I am ready to lead as a minister".

This elicited loud cheers from the audience.

'Done so much'

He told Zuma: "You were not elected by the media, or the markets, you were elected by the popular vote of the republic. White media has tried to discredit you; the opposition funded by whites have failed to dethrone the ANC."

Khumalo said Zuma was the first black president to build two universities and one medical school.

"Through the Trust, you have educated over 20 000 graduates. You have offered TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges, increased NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme)…

"He has done so much. We, those that have elected him, know what he has done. I don’t know how we are going to decolonise education… Where is the private sector, when government is the biggest employer?

"This is the last Christmas as the president of the ANC, not of the country, because you will lead until 2019. I hope for the ANC that the next president will not entertain the markets and please the media. He must serve the people like Nxamalala did," said Khumalo.

Another graduate who benefited from the trust is Dr Thabisile Mphofana.

She holds a PhD in Medical Science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

"It was 10 years ago when I was introduced to the Trust in matric, and I needed a bursary to go to university to study, and it appeared as a distant dream because I came from an informal settlement."

Mphofana said she was one of eight children raised by a single mother.

"Thank you, Mr President, today I am a proud graduate of the UKZN… because you believed in education. He had a strong conviction of educating the black child. That is why I am here today."

'Gave me a chance'

She said she was one of a few women who held a PhD and it was because Zuma saw that she could become a better person.

"If we do not educate our children we will be scared of our children because they will become criminals... But you don’t have to be scared of me because I am educated, because you [Zuma] gave me a chance… Our children just need someone to believe that they can be something better," Mphofana said.

Among the guests who attended the event were Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, her deputy Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and his wife, Philisiwe.

ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize was seated next to Nigerian-born American tycoon Kase Lawal.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development MEC Sihle Zikalala, and eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede, as well as members of the Zulu monarch, were also in attendance.

When News24 arrived earlier on Thursday morning, thousands of children were playing on jumping castles.

They told News24 that they were grateful that the president had set aside a day to celebrate Christmas with him.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  durban  |  education  |  good news

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