Point of View // 01.17.2012

The first group of Oprah’s girls graduate

Article by Aba H

This month marks the 5 year anniversary of the Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls in South Africa. I remember when it opened I was doing my Bachelors in Johannesburg and there was so much hype about the good that the $40 million school will do for

reducing poverty by educating disadvantaged girls in South Africa. The first group of students graduated last week leaving high school to now enter the real world as leaders who will bring peace to South Africa and the world.

Oprah should be applauded for actually wanting to do ‘good’ with her personal money and a number of disadvantaged girls in South Africa will have the benefit of going through a high quality school but I still find it difficult to reconcile the fact that someone can spend $40 million on a school for disadvantaged girls in SA as a way of contributing to development on the continent.

On paper it looks great, but ironically South Africa is Africa’s largest economy and one of the world’s emerging economies. South Africa has some of the best schools in Africa and several home grown initiatives such as the African Leadership Academy (which you should definitely check out) that understands the African context and needs.

So this brings me to the question: why should Oprah build a lavish $40 million leadership school in South Africa when there are cases in other parts of the continent that are lacking in good leadership and women representatives in decision-making positions? To me this school is a duplication of efforts as there are already so many good schools in South Africa and this is the problem with development. There is so much duplication of efforts.

In my humble opinion this school would have made a bigger developmental impact in South Sudan, Zimbabwe or Equatorial Guinea.

What do you think?

One Response to “The first group of Oprah’s girls graduate”

  1. Jonathan Roberts says:

    You are right to make this comment. Oprah considers herself to be Zulu but really doesn’t have any idea about the significance of that identity. But then again, she has brought a lot of media attention to her work and that could be positive in some way.

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