Oprah’s infamous South African School in the news again for a sex scandal…. Just makes me wonder… as I do… why the Hollywood heavy hitters get involved in all these ‘aid’ and good will projects by throwing heaps of money at the problems and taking snapshots for the press with semi-starving, but eternally grateful looking poor kids – when they are clearly in over their heads. There are cultural and systematic problems of epic proportions that they could not hope to understand when they ‘reach out’ in their naïve self congratulatory efforts to raise the quality of life of the poor in the ‘developing world’.
Oprah Winfrey has quite an impressive CV – according to her wiki profile, she is an American television presenter, media mogul and philanthropist. Her internationally-syndicated talk show is the highest-rated talk show in the history of television. She is also an influential book critic, an Academy Award nominated actress, and a magazine publisher. She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the most philanthropic African American of all time, and was once the world's only black billionaire. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world.
And yet, the most important philanthropic project of her life is an absolute disaster. Since it’s inception, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls, has been riddled with scandal and controversy.
What Oprah hoped would be a leading school in the country, with state of the art facilities, at a cost of $45m, has been exposed as a shady den of sexual misconduct both by matrons, charged in late 2007 with various indecent acts on the students, and now the students themselves.
Yes, I’m on Oprah’s case again. I covered the earlier story in 2007 with my usual skeptical perspective, but this new scandal just throws the whole concept up into the light once more.
Oprah can be, and definitely has proven herself, as the hero of middle class women in developed countries who stress about their self esteem, yoga vs. pilates, low fat or low carb, and what book to read next.
Time has proven that despite her supposedly valiant efforts, she CANNOT be the hero of the poorest, most vulnerable girls in the world, who live halfway across the globe - who’s problems range from possible starvation, lack of water and electricity and the Aids epidemic - to physical, sexual and mental abuse in a crumbling increasingly corrupt country with a dubious future. Even the walls around her bright Academy couldn't protect them....