Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Oprah helps South African girls start the New Year on the good foot

I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions since they usually don’t work out as planned but one thing I have promised myself is to focus more on positive news and stories about Africa and African people at this blog. Let’s be honest, Africa is NOT all about starvation, conflict, deprivation, and exploitation. If the 1000’s of global citizens who write and publish about Africa consider our work important in helping to tell Africa’s story then we had better make sure that we highlight the Good News right along with the Bad & Ugly News. Here’s a short news items that supports that philosophy:

Oprah Winfrey Opens New School for Girls in South Africa

Source: CNN International – 01/02/07

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) -- Oprah Winfrey opened a school Tuesday for disadvantaged girls, fulfilling a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela six years ago and giving more than 150 students a chance for a better future.

"I wanted to give this opportunity to girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty could dim that light," Winfrey said at a news conference.

Mandela was among the guests at the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg.

"This is a lady that has, despite her own disadvantaged background, become one of the benefactors of the disadvantaged throughout the world," Mandela said in a statement.

Singers Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, actors Sidney Poitier and Chris Tucker and director Spike Lee also were in attendance. Each guest was asked to bring a personally inscribed book for the library.

Winfrey has said that she decided to build her own school because she wanted to feel closer to the people she was trying to help.

The $40 million academy aims to give 152 girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid.

Eventually the school will accommodate 450 girls. Read More…

All I can say is “Go on Honey (Oprah), put your hard-earned money where your mouth is and help these deserving young people out.” You know Oprah is serious about this project when she has built a house on-campus for herself in order to monitor the progress of her girls.

Reminds me of my 4th grade teacher Ms. Smith who devoted her life to making sure we got a first class education under her strict but loving care. I’ve still got the scars on my backside to prove it too. Ms. Smith meant business when it came to learning God bless her heart and soul. French language, history and culture lessons in the 4th grade at a segregated public school in the heart of the American Midwest. Such an opportunity for advanced learning was rare for minorities and poor folks back in those days but the hard work and efforts of Ms. Smith was appreciated very much by the predominately black and poor white student body and by our excellent teachers and caring parents.

Grandiose Parlor has posted about the new leadership school for girls today as well and the comments have already begun to stream in over at Imnakoya’s place. Read “Oprah’s $40 Million High School” and pay particular attention to the link to Gavin Chait’s critical article “How Much Does A Free Education Cost?” at the WhytHawk development blog from South Africa.
O Philanthropy – The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation
Official website of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation

Yahoo! News – Press Release from Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls
Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls… Celebrates Its Official Opening

U.K. Times Online
Oprah Winfrey Opens School for Poor South African Girls

SABC TV News (South Africa Broadcasting Corp.)
Oprah Winfrey’s school for girls opens today

Independent Online (South Africa)
Mandela cheers Oprah's new school

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Black River Eagle said...

BBC News "Focus on Africa" has a broadcast on Saturday, January 6th dealing with philanthropy in Africa and with the new Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Here is an excerpt from the disucssions already started online at the BBC News "Have Your Say" website:

BBC News Talking Point

Is philanthropy good for Africa?

This week US TV host Oprah Winfrey opened a new school she has funded in South Africa to give an education to girls from poor families.

The school cost $40m (£20m) to build and will eventually cater for 450 pupils.

It is the latest example of super philanthropy - when the rich give away millions of dollars to help the poor in Africa, billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft’s Bill Gates among them.

But critics argue the media attention these celebrities court diminishes the work of more ordinary people.

What do you make of Ms Winfrey’s school? Can one school make a difference? Or should such large quantities of money be given to governments to implement more joined-up development? Does such celebrity philanthropy really help or is it a case of self publicity? Let us know your views.

A selection of your comments will be broadcast on the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 6 January 2007 at 1700 GMT.

Published: Thursday, 4 January, 2007, 16:07 GMT 16:07 UK

Note: You can also find the online discussion at BBC News / Africa:

Black River Eagle said...

In another good news story for education in sub-Saharan Africa this month, the government of Uganda will be offering free secondary school education to top-performing, needy students in Uganda. The funding for the program will come from the Government of Japan and the African Development Bank. This is the first program of its kind in East Africa and I hope that the idea spreads like wildfire in the region. Read more about it over at the BBC News website:

Free Schooling for Needy Ugandans