President Zuma visited Marhulana School, in Tembisa, near Johannesburg, to donate blankets and school bags to the learners as part of the Mandela Month programme.
The President walked about in the school while engaging with the school management to hear what they need to improve teaching and learning, before engaging with learners and handing out gifts.
The School Governing Body Chairperson Freddie Khoza made a request on behalf of the school and parents to the President to assist with provision of computers for learners, as the laboratory of the school was emptied due to break-ins in the past three years.
He also requested for a netball field in the school premises and for the ground around the classrooms to be paved.
Khoza told SAnews that the school is currently providing education to 697 learners through 20 educators, from Grade R to seven. He said most learners come from poor family backgrounds.
Heeding the call, President Zuma said the Chinese Ambassador Zhong Jianhua -- who was part of the President’s entourage together with his delegation on the day -- have committed to providing the school with computers.
The President encouraged learners to work hard regardless of their background, as government had plans that needed educated people to execute them.
President Zuma, who paid homage to former president Nelson Mandela, reminded hundreds of learners and parents gathered at the school how Madiba reached out to communities to help the needy in many ways to improve their living conditions.
“Today, we chose to visit this school, to celebrate Madiba’s love and compassion for children. We are also celebrating his commitment to uplifting and improving the lives of the poor. In that way, he inspired the world to follow his example.
“We are also celebrating Madiba’s love for education. Even in his retirement, he still worked with the private sector to get financial resources to build very good schools in underprivileged communities,” said President Zuma.
He said this year, the late Madiba’s birthday marked the 7th anniversary of the International Mandela Day, and that was the reason to bring learners some nice gifts in his memory.
“We are giving you these blankets, which can keep you warm when you study at home. You are also receiving the school bags so that your books can be safe and remain in good condition for a long time.
“We also want to assure the parents that government is working hard to improve the condition of our schools, including this one, and the general conditions under which our children learn. It is important that all of us, including parents, play our roles in this task.”
He commended the SGB of the school for functioning properly and supporting learners. He said the collaboration of various stakeholders, the religious sector, the previous learners from the school, which is now 59-years-old, the district office and the parents, are all a living example that working together more can be achieved.
The school has over the last three years produced above 90% pass rate, except in 2015 when it fell to 86%.
“We are here to encourage you to take the percentage higher again this year, and coming years. We can only succeed if there is cooperation - 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,” said the President.
He called on the community to unite and support the school. “When we are united like this, our children cannot go astray. If we stand united, we will also close the door to crime because many schools now have problems of crime, which include drugs, violence and bullying.
“When we are united like this, we are able to pick up the problems quickly and deal with them,” said the President.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has requested learners to practice the reading culture to improve their overall performance and asked parents to encourage their children to read.
She said the Annual National Assessment (ANA) results showed that the core problem with learners is a lack of reading skills.