Criticism of Oprah’s “dream” project unfounded

OPRAH IS A woman people either love to love or love to hate. Especially when it comes to a controversy. From James Frey and his not so true nonfiction book, “A Million Little Pieces,” to her claim that she wouldn’t eat another hamburger and the effect she had on the cattle industry — her actions definitely stir up some buzz.

The most recent controversy with Oprah’s name stamped on it appears on the surface not to have two sides to it. Oprah spent $40 million to open The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, a boarding school for girls in South Africa. The school is opening with spots for 152 girls, grades seven through 12.

The TV-host has called this her dream, something she has worked towards for five years.

To me, it seems like the only way to react to that would be to commend Oprah for sharing her wealth with children who truly need her help. This is her way to provide a once in a life time opportunity to young girls, to give them an education, hope and a safe place to live and learn.

But everyone doesn’t see it that way and Oprah’s critics have come out to voice their opinions.

Newsweek writer Allison Samuels criticized Oprah for the lavish design of the school that is set on 22 acres and divided into 28 buildings. Samuels listed the school’s perks such as a yoga studio, a beauty salon, indoor and outdoor theatres and oversized rooms with scorn, referring to the school as extravagant.

Other critics believed that the school was elitist, that such a beautiful establishment was too much for such an impoverished nation.

Bloggers across the Internet disapproved that Oprah chose to build her dream school in South Africa, rather than in the United States.

More complaints included that Oprah was building the school just for girls and that she should have used the money to buy more schools instead of just one over-the-top school. Others called her school just another publicity stunt.

First of all, Oprah can spend her money anyway she darn well feels like it — it’s her own money for Pete’s sake.

And Oprah is choosing to spend a nice chunk of her $1.4 billion fortune on others — what’s to criticize about that?

For those who condemn Oprah for not building the school in the United States — our country already has a school system where children are guaranteed a free education. Plus, as Oprah pointed out, American children can often be a bunch of spoiled brats. In America, most kids want the latest gadgets while in South Africa, kids just want to learn and have uniforms to wear to school.

Oprah says that this school is her dream but South Africa is the country that really needs a dream. This is a country where the life expectancy is 42.73 years. AIDS is affecting 21.5 percent of the adults in the country, or 5.3 million people. Half of the population is living below the poverty line with 25.5 percent of South Africans unemployed.

On Monday night, ABC featured “Building a Dream, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy.” The hour-long program followed Oprah’s journey as she developed her dream school, sifted through thousands of applicants and personally interviewed the finalists who would become the students at her school.

Oprah was looking for girls who had the “it” factor, girls who were leaders, who had good grades, who loved to learn and who would become the face of South Africa.

These are girls who are scared to walk home, but keep on going with a smile on their faces. They sleep with their families in one-room huts but stay up at night doing their homework by candlelight.

These are girls who desperately want to live a safe and fulfilling life and are excited to learn everything they can. This is not just another controversy or topic of the day to blog about — these are the lives of real girls who just want a chance. And for 152 girls, they have been given that chance.

Now that’s a dream come true.

Previous Story

Reconsidering the "sorority girl" stereotype

Next Story

VIDEO: Dance club grows tap by tap