President Jacob Zuma: I’m Proud I Educated Myself


Did you know that close to 12-million people voted for Zuma and the ANC in the 2009 South African general elections?

With such amazing number of voters, one wonders whether voters paused to think about the president’s lack of a formal education.

Or did people think about it and decide it was not important?

Or maybe he was project as a “man of the people” who understood their plight, and was therefore best placed to address their needs?

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I believe, answers to the aforementioned questions are best known to Zuma and ANC supporters who pushed him to power.

To date, President Jacob Zuma has never felt bad about not acquiring formal education; rather, he is always fast to tell all who care that he “taught himself”.

Speaking to a group of Tembisa primary school pupils about the importance of education on Mandela Day, he said poverty should never deter one from educating oneself.

He said: “I never went to school, but I educated myself. I’m proud of that. I took a decision to educate myself when I realized I didn’t have a choice, because my father had just died.”

Zuma also challenged parents who were in attendance by inquiring how many of them acquired formal education.

“In the past it was judged that you are educated based on how well you know Shakespeare’s work,” he said.

He then recited a few lines from the playwright’s work, to applause from the audience.

Wrapping up his speech, Zuma reiterated the importance of collective efforts in teaching and learning; which he said is the key to bringing positive changes in the education sector.

“Teachers doing their work, parents and community supporting teachers, learners listening to their parents and teachers, government providing resources, with private companies assisting from time to time.

When we are united like this, we are able to pick up the problems quickly and deal with them,” he said.

Zuma’s visit to Marhulana Primary School – one of the oldest schools in the country was to determine areas in the school that need improvement and face-lift.

He was accompanied by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga; Gauteng Premier David Makhura; and Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Zuma’s failure to acquire formal education and his dramatic election as South Africa’s president has been a recurring point of argument.

However, many still feels it’s immaterial that Zuma was not well-read; what matters is his ability to manage his Cabinet coherently.

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But, Julius Malema, once Zuma’s staunchest ally but now his No. 1 nemesis has severally slammed Zuma for his lack of education.

He once said: “[Look at] Mandela Day. [It was said that every day should be Mandela Day]. But he [Zuma] said every day must be Mandela’s birthday. How possible is that? You see the importance of education?”

Zuma’s father, a policeman, died at the end of World-War II when Zuma was five years old.

After his father’s death, his mother took up employment as a domestic worker. Not being able to be schooled, Zuma taught himself to read and write Zulu in the bush.