Zuma brings child's wish to life

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Johannesburg - Orphaned 11-year-old Paul Jarvis' dream of meeting the country's first citizen in the flesh to "ask him a few questions" came true on Wednesday when President Jacob Zuma visited the Frances Vorwerg School in Johannesburg.

A visibly nervous and excited Paul who attends the school that caters for learners with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities said he had a few questions that he wanted to ask the President.

"I want to ask him why he chose to become president; what it feels like when people come in numbers to greet him and how he felt when he met the Queen of England."

Paul was the reason that the President visited the school. According to his teacher, Rose Mbele, the boy had asked her to arrange a visit by Zuma.

"I was in class one day, about three weeks ago, when Paul came and asked me if the president could visit the school."

Mbele said she tried to dismiss him but the little boy kept persisting. Eventually the teacher promised she would do her best to achieve the not so small task of getting the President to especially visit this particular school.

Mbele said she contacted Zuma's office who said he was abroad. But later, she received a call from an official in the presidency who told them that Paul's wish might come true and Zuma would visit his school. .

Paul said meeting the president was a dream come true. "I think he is amazing and I also want to be like him one day."

In a private meeting with Zuma, Paul engaged the president and later took out some coins which made up R10.

He asked the president to take the money and give it to a "poor child."

Zuma who was visibly touched by Paul's act said it showed that the little boy was "bright, clear, loving and embracing."

He promised to visit the school again and said he would arrange a tour for the school to one of the world cup stadiums, which was Paul's request.

The President used the visit to address problems facing special schools in the country.

"This shows the country that there are specials schools like these that need our attention and care," Zuma told learners who had gathered in the school hall. Around the school, soccer balls and flags of the participating nations hung brightly while outside the sound of vuvuzelas could be heard.

"I am happy I came to this school, but I have been told that there are a number of kids with special needs who are sitting at home."

He said he would meet the ministers of education and social development and other departments to discuss how to work together to solve these problems.

Much to the joy of the learners, the President joined them in doing the diski dance that the kids had perfected just in time for his visit which also marked the last day of the school term before the start of the winter holidays.

Schools will be closed countrywide, in an unusually long holiday to accommodate the World Cup tournament that ends on July 11.