The queen of daytime talk has a history
of doing things in grandiose style. Who can forget the sparkling diamond-drop earrings she surprised herguests with at the end of the star-studded Legends Ball? Or the fleet of Pontiac G6 cars she gave to her entire audience during the premiere of her 19th season? In fact, we can still hear Oprah screaming over and over again, “Everybody
gets a car!”
So this year, as she cuts the ribbon to kick off her latest project, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Winfrey can add one more act of extravagance to the list.
The $40 million school includes a yoga studio, beauty salon and indoor and outdoor theaters that sit on a 22-acre, 28-building complex. The girls stay in a two-bedroom suite with an oversized closet and bed, personally tested by Winfrey herself. Although we applaud her generosity, there is no question that the media mogul
went a bit overboard again.
Since when is a beauty salon a tool for education and leadership development?
We agree that Winfrey’s intentions to “change the face of the nation” through education are good, but dropping $40 million for one school that will educate only 152 girls seems a bit ridiculous.
Although Winfrey said “these girls deserve to be surrounded by beauty,” we say it is a right that should be enjoyed by all South African children. Only 4 percent from the pool of girls she interviewed were admitted (a lower acceptance rate than Harvard’s), Winfrey’s school not only creates education barriers in a country where two-thirds of 1,667,000 South African children who started school 12 years ago dropped out, and only 5 percent are academically eligible to attend a university.
Winfrey could have easily helped a larger number of South African children, including the 3,500 girls she denied and underprivileged South African boys who also face the same restrictions to education
as their female counterparts.
It appears that Winfrey, who fought through a difficult childhood, is vicariously
reliving hers through “her girls” that she hand-picked along with the uniforms,
china and bathroom tiles, spoiling them with riches that she never enjoyed as a girl. The school’s luxurious construction outweighs the real reason for building the academy – education. Winfrey is encouraging the same materialistic value system among South African students that she chastises American students for having.
Oprah, do South Africa a favor: build more schools.