When the Best Deserve the Best

The building of a $40 million leadership academy in South Africa for disadvantaged girls by Oprah Winfrey has been an interesting lesson in the ‘what I would do with $40 million dollars’ exercise.

The furore about the building of a $40 million leadership academy in South Africa for disadvantaged girls by US talk show host and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey, has been an interesting lesson in the ‘what I would do with $40 million dollars’ exercise.

Oprah has been castigated by some for creating an elitist institution where girls will enjoy the privileges of a 2-bedroom suite and bed sheets of the finest cotton. Others argue that the money would have been better spent in educating many more girls in surroundings of a lesser standard. While it begs the question of why those who were not involved in the rigours of producing a demanding daily television talk show, managing a globally circulated magazine and developing national literacy and charitable programmes, feel entitled to determine the distribution of Oprah’s profits; the bigger issue seems to have been overlooked by the proponents of the ‘less is more’ school of thought.

Oprah has not set out to take over the obligations of a national government to provide affordable and accessible education to its citizens. She has made a gesture – if $40 million can be rightly described as a gesture – of recognition that absorbing the best quality of education within the best surroundings will produce a cadre of highly educated, self-confident young women who can rightfully aspire to leadership in whichever field of endeavour they choose. Inspired by a great leader – Nelson Mandela – Oprah’s gift of a world-class training institution will give its pupils the confidence to envision and achieve a world-class future for themselves and, thus, be in a position to give back to their people, their country and their continent.

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