In December of 2002 when Oprah Winfrey broke ground for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Nelson Mandela, along with the South African Ministry of Education and the local Provincial Ministry of Education were all right beside her.
They were there because they knew it was the real deal.
"Education is the way to move mountains, to build bridges, to change the world. Education is the path to the future. I believe that education is indeed freedom. With God's help, these girls will be the future leaders on the path to peace in South Africa and the world," said Oprah. But she was not just “talking through her mouth;” she was “putting her money where her mouth is.” Her Oprah Winfrey Foundation is contributing $10 million to build the academy and maintain it (with additional funding from the Department of Education for the province where the school is being located).
The mission of the academy is to teach girls to be the best human beings they can ever be and to train them to become decision-makers and leaders. It is Ms. Winfrey’s hope that the academy will become a model school for the rest of the world. Advanced education techniques and advanced technology including a telecommunications system will allow girls at the academy to explore the changing world beyond their region or their nation. Ms. Winfrey plans from the beginning to take a “hands on” approach to the program by using the advanced technology to teach from Chicago. But the regular faculty and administration would be recruited from the best and the brightest of South Africa's educators.
The students will be chosen from those girls who are academically talented and exhibit leadership skills in their community, but whose families cannot support their education,” according to a web site posted by Oprah.com. The web site went on to state that the academy would begin admitting 75 students in grades 7 through 12 and would continue to add students in the 7th and 10th grades until 450 students are accommodated.
The academy, slated to open in 2006, will be located in the Guateng Province of South Africa on 22 acres of land in Henley-on-Klip, Meyerton. Guateng Province said by some to be destined to become the Silicon Valley of South Africa is a logical for the site which will include state-of-the-art classrooms, computer and science labs, as well as a library, an auditorium/gymnasium, an amphitheatre, sports fields, modern dorm facilities and a dining hall. Home to Johannesburg, the commercial capital, as well as Pretoria, the seat of most government branches, the Guateng Province is said by some to be the bellwether of the nation's economy. Its health is critical to the stability of a new democracy where one in three people between the ages of 15 and 65 are unemployed. Young bright leaders in a skilled work force in Guateng Province is a crucial ingredient for the health of South Africa and Oprah intends to stir it into the pot.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is but one project of the many initiated by The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, which was established in 1987 and supports the inspiration, empowerment and education of women, children and families around the world. Through The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, Oprah has awarded hundreds of grants to organizations that carry out this vision and has contributed tens of millions of dollars towards providing a better education for underserved students.
The Oprah Winfrey Foundation is a private foundation, but while the work of making the world a better place is a responsibility of each of us individually, but we should never let one individual labor alone in this task. If providing the type of education to young women in South Africa is the type of effort you believe in, learn more about what you can do, go to Oprah’s “Christmas Kindness” page, which can be found at:
Christmas Kindness and click the link titled “What You Can Do”
Or you can go directly to the “What One Person—YOU—Can Do” page at:
What One Person—YOU—Can Do
Don’t just sit back in your chair and root her on with a “You Go Girl!” Pitch in and do something.