30 May 2014
President Jacob Zuma took a break from government business on Thursday to field a battery of questions from a group of 40 girls from schools in and around Pretoria.
As part of Take a Girl Child to Work Day, Zuma hosted the girls at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was taken to task on what his new administration was going to do to address some of the challenges that the country faces.
Zuma sat in a chair alongside new Minister of Women Susan Shabangu and soon put the girls at ease with touches of humour.
The girls had question after question for the President, but were most keen to find out what his day-to-day work entailed. He detailed his schedule and explained what it took to be the President of the country.
“It’s a huge task,” he said, explaining that a President has to understand the country’s people and its needs.
“Understand what leadership is. Join a party and work with it. Join a party that has a clear understanding of its policies. Be knowledgeable. Educate yourself – it is every important,” Zuma said.
Asked how he deals with doomsayers, the President encouraged the girls never to be discouraged by criticism and instead to build themselves from lessons learnt.
Another learner asked what it takes from a child to rise from humble beginnings in the rural areas to become President. “It is very possible,” Zuma replied. “It depends how you view society. I come from a rural area … but as a young person, I took a decision to educate myself. In the end, I was given this serious job by the ruling party. So, it doesn’t matter where you come from.”
One of the girls told Zuma she was very honoured to meet him, but said she was concerned that South Africa had a high crime rate. The President assured her that crime was high on the list of priorities of the new administration. “Already we have a plan, and there has been progress. But going forward, you will see major improvements,” he said.
Two girls used the opportunity to pour out their hearts about their daily struggles – from living in an orphanage home, to one family’s battle to keep their daughter in university. Zuma said the stories touched his heart, and promised them that his office would intervene.
After well over an hour, Zuma was forced to bring the conversation to an end, saying he had to get back to the business of running the country.
The event was clearly a highlight for the girls from schools around Pretoria, as they were beaming after the experience.
“At first I had butterflies … It was great and I was honoured to meet him, because it’s not likely for anybody to just sit down with the President and ask him questions,” said Ignatia Mabelane (14) from Birchleigh Hoerskool.
Portia Kudobane from Bokgone Technical High School said she was humbled by how the President joked with them. “He is really a people’s President. I have also learnt a lot from him, such as not letting my background or what people say about me define me.”
Take a Girl Child to Work Day is an annual event initiated by mobile telecommunications company Cell C to give young girls a chance to spend a day in different career environments to see what options are open to them.