Oprah’s School

January 7, 2007

I do not usually watch Oprah, and even when I do we are so far behind her in NZ that it is hardly suprising that I only just heard about Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy. Oprah says that “the school will teach girls to be the best human beings they can ever be; it will train them to become decision-makers and leaders; it will be a model school for the rest of the world.”

While I am sure Oprah has the best of intentions, and I truely admire her for actually doing something, I have some reservations about the school.

While the publicity attracted by a high profile project like this is great for raising awareness of social justice issues, it can detract from other, older projects that have been working quietly for years. Worse, it may attract donations that may have otherwise gone to those existing projects, most of which do not have Oprah’s $40 million support and struggle to keep afloat.

As Actionaid also points out a school like this risks simply creating a new elite. It is a small school, educating a handful and hand-picked girls and does nothing to help the other 40 million girls who have never been inside a classroom. Oprah’s millions (and the rest of the donations she raises) could be much more effective spent on reducing discrimination and violence agains women and girls and on improving the quality and effectiveness of existing schools.

So while I applaud Oprah for her initiative, I’d like to challenge her to do her homework. To find more effective uses for her money, and for the publicity she invariably creates. She is doing a lot, but she could do so much more.

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One Response to “Oprah’s School”

  1. Beverly Says:

    I have no reservations about this school. Everyone is used to giving Africa second best if not scraps. Oprah is a true visonary and anyone who thinks that HER $40 mil would be better spent clogged up in the existing school system is a fool. What revolutionaries do? They create NEW systems and step outside the crap. The world has been giving money to Africa for decades and we are worse off–much worse. Oprah said, why not take not only the smartest and most promising students but the VISIONARIES and give them a huge opportunity. Something, the like of Action Aid want is for Africa to wallow through handouts forever, no one wants real change in Africa, because no one is READY for it and we bicker and critisize those bold enought to envision an financial NON-Enslaved Africa. I’m sickened when I hear people say “well why didn’t she give the money to….” Oprah is THE imminent Black women in the world and she knows a thing or two about overcoming poverty and extreme disadvantages. Its not like she picked some priveleged kids, the school chose poor girls, many of whom excel despite astonishing circumstances. So how dare anyone say they don’t deserve a school like this because all of a sudden their “elite” no–they are remarkable and they need to be sepreatley fostered–so that not only will they be engineers, lawyers, doctors but found hospitals, firms, build schools and be PRESIDENT!


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