SA education standards too low - Oprah
Pauli van Wyk, Beeld
Johannesburg - The standard of school education in South Africa is too low, US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey said at the graduation ceremony of her Leadership Academy for Girls at Henley-on-Klip over the weekend.
She was answering a question on how South Africa can learn from the success of her school.
Winfrey on Saturday congratulated the school's first matric class on their 100% pass rate and 188 distinctions.
More than half of the school’s 72 matriculants had an average of more than 75%.
All of the pupils plan to continue studying this year, at universities in South Africa and the US.
“It is the beginning of the end of poverty,” said Winfrey, referring to the matriculants who received their diplomas on Saturday.
“The girls have broken the circle of poverty in their homes and from here on they can give back to the community.”
Winfrey emphasised that South Africa had to invest in leadership so that rewards could be reaped later, especially in poor communities.
The school’s success was due to good, knowledgeable teachers and to girls who were not pampered because they came from difficult backgrounds, said Winfrey.
“I have found that people underestimate disadvantaged children and therefore lower standards.
“It is also indicative of your standards here that you can pass with 30%. Businesspeople can’t operate successfully if they function with only 30% to 40%.
“We haven’t allowed the girls to use their backgrounds as an excuse. Education is the door to freedom.”
Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela's wife and a member of the school board, was the main speaker at the event.
“Remember always that where you were born does not dictate what will become of you,” she told the class.
"But know too that privileges like you had are one side of the coin. The other side is the responsibility to make a difference.”