Discussion Questions for the Students in Your Life
June 15, 2006
1. What did you learn about education in South Africa? What were some of the obstacles students like Zodwa and Mahlatse faced every day just to attend school? How would you feel in their situation? Facts to share: In the United States, the government provides all children with a free education and requires them to attend school. Some of the smartest South African children from disadvantaged and dangerous communities do not have the opportunity to go to school. Their families cannot afford to send them because of the cost of required uniforms and annual school fees.
2. Do you know how many South African women between the ages of 15 and 24 can't read?
A) 1 in 5
B) 1 in 10
C) 1 in 20
Facts to share: Almost 1 in 10 South African women between the ages of 15 and 24 can't read because they have not been able to attend school. When girls learn to read, they are empowered to improve their lives and the lives of their children.
Follow-up: What does an education mean to girls like Lesego and Thando? What do they hope to achieve for themselves and their country? How are they similar or different from the dreams you have?
3. What did you learn about AIDS/HIV in South Africa? What does it mean for the future of South Africa? Facts to share: In 2005, 5.5 million South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 18.8 percent of adults ages 15 to 49—the generation responsible for raising children, running government, working for and owning businesses—were living with HIV. That's almost 1 out of 20 adults.
4. What are some of the ways the AIDS/HIV epidemic has personally touched some of the girls' lives? How has it inspired Zodwa and Sade? Facts to share: Many children in South Africa have lost parents to AIDS/HIV. Some have grandparents who can care for them; others are now responsible for raising themselves and their siblings.
Follow-up: Imagine what your life would be like without even one parent in your home. How would you balance your school work with caring for your family at such a young age? 5. Oprah said, "Love is in the details." How did she include pieces of South African culture into the Leadership Academy? Facts to share: Many South African cultures have their own way of dressing. Artistic beadwork, fabric colors, patterns and jewelry can show a person's position in the community. Music is also an important part of South African culture. The country is famous for a special kind of a cappella music, which blends traditional African harmonies with choir singing brought to the country by missionaries. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy is filled with murals and other artwork created by local artisans to inspire and celebrate African culture.
6. Does anyone know what apartheid means? How did it affect South Africa? Facts to share: Until 1990, the South African government practiced apartheid, which is the segregation of people based on race. Non-white citizens were not allowed to vote and were not provided with access to the same quality of education and healthcare. In 1994, the first democratic election was held. For black South Africans, including Nelson Mandela, it was the first time they could vote. In May 1994, after an overwhelming victory, Mandela was inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa.
Follow-up: What do you know about South Africa today? How is The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls a unique opportunity?
7. Oprah said she was looking for girls to attend the Leadership Academy who had a special quality she calls "it." What are the qualities a girl with "it" has? Are these important characteristics of a good leader? Who do you know who has "it"?