UNIVERSITY of the Free State vice- chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen has urged Nelson Mandela Bay pupils not to be like President Jacob Zuma and incompetent government officials.
"Guys, I know it is difficult being you because you live in a country where the most important people in the country do not know how to keep their zips up," he told a group of high school pupils yesterday.
"The only way out of poverty is through education, not through the ANC and not through connections.
"Girls, respect your bodies. First get a degree, then get pregnant. The boys will run away when they find out that you are pregnant. Protect yourselves at all times."
Jansen was invited by former Uitenhage High School pupil Ghauderen Coetzee-De Vos, who wrote a chapter in his book, Great South African Teachers, to motivate pupils ahead of their final exams.
Hundreds of pupils from David Livingstone Senior Secondary School in Schauderville, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage's McCarthy Comprehensive and John Walton schools also attended the motivational talk held at the Uitenhage High School.
Before moving on to the serious stuff, Jansen showed pupils another side of his personality – that of comedian.
"I am happy to be in Uitenhage where there are more cars than people.
"Before coming here I had never heard of Uitenhage High, so I googled it. It said Uitenhage High was the best school in South Africa after David Livingstone," he said to loud applause from the pupils.
"This was the coldest winter. It is believed it was so cold that the president was sleeping with his own wives to keep warm."
After the ice was broken, he got down to business.
"I grew up on the Cape Flats where I was raised by very religious parents, Abraham and Sarah.
"They saved me from being like my peers who were drinking alcohol and ended up in jail – they taught me the value of education," Jansen said.
He said he was the worst performing student in primary school.
"When I got to Std 8 [Grade 10], my teacher told me I was pretending to be stupid and that I had potential.
"From that day onwards, I never came second in my class in South Africa and in America. That day changed my life.
"My daughter is deaf in one ear and we never told her about the deaf ear. We always told her what she can do, not what she cannot do.
"You are smarter than you think. Do not let anyone tell you what you cannot do.
"Do not be like the incompetent people who run this province – do not be like the government," Jansen said.
He said when Oprah Winfrey was at his university last year, they had spent 30 minutes alone chatting.
"I asked her how she had managed to be one of the richest women in the world after she was molested as a child by her stepfather and was a teenage prostitute.
"Her answer was simple. She said in her Chicago accent, 'Jonathan, when they gave me a chance for education I said Oprah do not mess it up'.
"If you think you have problems, think about what Oprah went through growing up in a racist Mississippi where men were lynched and still accomplished what she accomplished."
Grade 12 pupil Darrel George, 17, said Jansen motivated him.
"The fact that he brought up some personal experience is good. Sometimes we do need to be motivated because we cannot always motivate ourselves. He was very motivating and I enjoyed it," he said.
Anita Nokhetshe, 19, also a Grade 12 pupil, said: "It was very inspirational, especially the way he did it with laughter.
"It is good to hear something nice instead of being told what you cannot do."
School principal Timothy Heynes said the school was honoured to have Jansen motivating pupils in a fun way.
Coetzee-De Vos said Jansen was the most relevant person in the higher education system to motivate pupils.