Talk show mogul Oprah Winfrey was joined by a celebrity lineup that included Tina Turner, Mary J Blige, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, and Spike Lee at Tuesday’s opening her new leadership academy for disadvantaged South African girls. Winfrey said the 152 girls had a light so bright that it shone through their deprivation and helped bring their dreams to reality.
The $40 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in the town of Henley-on-Klip, Johannesburg, fulfills a promise Winfrey made to Nelson Mandela six years ago. Mandela, South Africa‘s first democratically-elected President, was also in attendance.
Oprah also had a word for critics who would rather see her build schools in the United States. "I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there," said Winfrey. "If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school." She added that she also planned to open a co-ed school in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
The Emmy Award-winning talk host hopes that education can provide an answer to South Africa‘s increasing AIDS pandemic that has affected over 5 million people, among other societal ills. "Girls who are educated are less likely to get HIV/AIDS, and in this country, which has such a pandemic, we have to begin to change the pandemic," she said.