President Jacob Zuma says education is an important tool to empower people and this is the reason he decided to establish an education trust to increase access to educational opportunities for disadvantaged children, particularly in rural areas.
The Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust, which depends mainly on donations and sponsorships, also offers opportunities in higher education to promising youth from rural areas, with a passion for self and community development.
The trust has paid for the education of more than 20 000 children and youth since its inception.
Speaking at the Presidential Golf Challenge Gala Dinner at the Century City Hotel on Friday, President Zuma said he was not fortunate enough to receive formal education at an early age.
Therefore, when he was still an MEC in KwaZulu-Natal he decided to start a trust that did not only focus on giving bursaries to matric graduates, but to orphaned and poverty-stricken children at lower grades.
A decision was taken that a fund of R500 000 would be given to MECs who were then expected to decide how they would spend it to stimulate service delivery.
At the time, the democratic government had just initiated what was called the Reconstruction Development Programme (RDP), a socio-economic policy framework aimed at tacking the massive shortfalls in social services in the country and a tool to alleviate poverty brought about by apartheid.
The President said when the funds were given to him, he felt many people had been excluded from the economy by the apartheid regime through Bantu education. He believed education to be the ultimate equaliser.
“If you are not empowered by education, your life will not be easy. But once you are empowered, you can manage life easily.
“I then felt that it is very important that we should help those who are unfortunate, and that is what led to my establishing the trust,” he said.
He said by educating people you are making a contribution.
“So this was an opportunity that was very important for me, to do something to help one or two kids,” said President Zuma.
The President officiated at the Presidential Golf Challenge fundraising dinner on Friday, an annual event hosted by the Department of Public Service and Administration, following the State of the Nation Address.
The Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust was the beneficiary of the proceeds of the funding.
The golf event and dinner affords the President an opportunity to emphasize the role of business in economic development and growth using education as a tool for sustainable development and economic growth.
Trust sponsors 20 000 children
To date, the trust – with sponsors like Transnet and Cell C, among others – has helped children achieve their dreams against all odds.
Public Service and Administration Deputy Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said the fund aimed to raise R9 million this year.
Last year, the Presidential Golf Challenge managed to raise R8.5 million.
“This enabled the trust to take 272 children to school, and in the system currently, there are about 1200 students. In total, President Zuma has taken to school 20 000 children since 1995.
“If this isn’t a good story to tell, I don’t know what is,” said the Deputy Minister.