08 January 2007

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

I am watching Anderson Cooper 360 and on his show today he is talking with Oprah. In case you haven’t heard, Oprah recently opened the doors to her $40 M academy in South Africa. When I first heard about the school, I wondered what motivated her to embark on this particular project, and anticipated criticism whatever her motives might be. I have not been disappointed. She has received a lot of flack from home and abroad as per the ‘extravagance’ that is The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. I think the most petty/ignorant thing I have heard so far is; ‘these are African girls living in huts, they don’t need all this finery’. Really. The fact that you are from/live in a certain part of the world should dictate the kinds of opportunities you receive? Interesting. Let me not forget to point out that this is all Oprah’s money, not tax payers funds o! I got a clue to her inspiration as I watched the show; a quote from Oprah came up on screen. I don’t remember it verbatim, but its something along the lines that the South African children wanted the education more than the kids in inner-city schools who all seemed to just want IPods and fancy sneakers. As my people will say ‘Eni to lori o ni fila’ (Person wey get head no get cap). South Africans also have something to say, perhaps she didn’t need to spend $40M on a facility for 152 girls when she could have spent the same amount and wouldn’t have had a need to turn back any applicants (over 3500 girls applied for a place in the academy). Perhaps. My issue is not that the school is too grand, rather that these girls will still return to the shacks/huts from which they came, will the school be able to help them see that they can rise above their circumstances and hold their own with the crème de la crème of society like Oprah despite their humble beginnings? Will they see the school as the opportunity it is to a better life not as a life support machine? I wish Oprah and her 152 daughters all the best.

On a lighter note, I wondered why Jeff Koinange was holding on to Oprah for dear life while they walked and talked on the Academy campus. Then I saw it, Oprah’s lashes were so long there were sending strong gales in the poor guys direction every time she blinked. Okay okay the sun was casting shadows so they seemed longer than they actually were but really Oprah should consider reducing the length of her lashes just a tad bit.


Akin said...

Hello Adefunke,

I also wrote a piece on Oprah's academy after seeing comments from other bloggers who have an egalitarian view of philanthropists spreading their largesse to affect quantity than quality.

However, of every interview with Oprah I have seen on CNN, BBC, with Anderson Copper, in the Economist and International Newsweek - I am in awe of the project she took on and what she has done.

Most importantly is the fact that she can identify with the poverty, the abuse, the returning from opulence to poor surroundings that the girls would encounter.

If there is anyone who understands and appreciates exactly how to make leaders of girls who till now had not opportunity to that vision, Oprah is the best mentor, regardless of how others could not capture her vision - this included the government, the architects and many other partners.

As for the eyelashes, one of the girls interviewed asked if she really spent $500 doing those eyelashes - she is a student in the academy.

adefunke said...

@ akin - Its a lie! You mean she spends $500 on her lashes?! Those lashes?! Abegi u get her number make I market myself, I know I can do a better job than what she currently has on!!!