Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Oprah Opens Another School In South Africa To My Dismay! How About Yours?

Oprah Winfrey opened her second school for poor South African youth Friday, an innovative, environmentally friendly institution she hopes will be a model for public education. And considering some of the things I've read in the news lately, the American model for how kids are today...even in poor Africa, hold true. Let me give you a little background before I rant.

The Seven Fountains Primary School was funded by Oprah's Angel Network, a public charity that supports organizations and projects focused on education and literacy." The Seven Fountains School is an example of what schools in South Africa can become," Winfrey said at the formal dedication of the school outside the remote town of Kokstad in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

The $1.6 million school, which will be run by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, has 25 classrooms, three multipurpose rooms, a library, computer center, landscaped playground and two sports fields. Winfrey emphasized the importance of education in combatting poverty and said every child had a right to succeed. "We are here today to celebrate the transformative power of education," she said.

The lavish $40 million school was the fulfillment of a promise she made to Mandela six years ago and aims to give 152 girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of apartheid.

Now here's where the news stories get me. Read on.

But some parents have complained to local media about academy rules limiting the girls to one family visit a month and restricting their cell phone calls and consumption of junk food. "It was a nightmare," Frances Mans told the News24 Web site. "We had only two hours to see my child. Surely this isn't a prison?" John Samuel, chief operating officer for the academy, said parents had raised their concerns with Winfrey by telephone and had been reassured."They say they are satisfied that the girls are not being treated unfairly," he said, adding that the school had tried to discourage parents from bringing the girls soft drinks or sweets because they were fed a nutritious diet.

Now this appears to me that this school is somewhat elitist. ActionAid, a global development group, said Winfrey's money could have been better spent improving the quality of education for more children. Cell phones? In Africa? Poverty? How is that. My cell phone bill runs over $100/month without text messaging. How can the "poor South African youth" Oprah is building this school for afford cell phones, soft drinks or sweets?

I will bet there are some people in Louisiana who can't afford a cell phone after what Katrina did down there. Maybe some of Oprah's "funding" ought to go to help some of the poor here in America. It's been a couple of years and we are still hearing horror stories of that devastating hurricane. I commend Oprah on what she's done with her money but after reading this one article, I think it's time she looks at her own country - a country that has supported her TV shows, books, etc. - and helps to rebuild some of the broken lives here in America.

And while she's at it, why don't some other philanthropists get together and give cell phones to every man, woman and child here in America.

That's what I call, "Raising the Bar!"