Before Oprah: Scholar’s Philanthropic Work Has Huge Impact on Africa

Upper part: a Gulen-inspired school; Lower part: Oprah's Leadership Academy
Upper part: a Gulen-inspired school; Lower part: Oprah's Leadership Academy


Date posted: September 12, 2013

Dr. Lachin Hatemi

Centuries of colonization, slavery and diseases ravaged the sub-Saharan Africa. The entire continent was left with a desperate need for an educated and skilled workforce, which can transform the economy and improve the daily lives of Africans. Education is the key to such a transformation and ending poverty in Africa. What are we doing to educate the African youth?

Oprah Winfrey had some recent media coverage for her school for girls in South Africa (Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls), where under-privileged girls can receive world-class education. Successful students from poor families are admitted after an intense application process in which Oprah is personally involved. Oprah visits her school in South Africa regularly to counsel and encourage her students. Some of these girls were able to get accepted into American universities with Oprah Winfrey’s support, which would not be possible otherwise.

This charitable activity from Oprah is very admirable, but she is hardly alone in her mission. A well-respected Turkish scholar, Mr. Fethullah Gulen, who currently resides in Pennsylvania, inspired legions of Turkish volunteers to establish schools in many Sub-Saharan African countries over the last two decades. These secular schools provide education from nursery school to high school with greater emphasis on math and science education. Many graduates of these schools can easily proceed to prestigious American and European universities for their future education.

For starters, this movement, also called Hizmet, is a loosely connected group of individuals and NGO’s inspired by the ideas and ideals of Fethullah Gülen – a Turkish Muslim scholar and thinker. The movement’s activities span some 140 or so countries occupying an important place in the field of education, intercultural dialogue, healthcare, and relief activities. The major emphasis is a selfless approach to serving others and providing education to people in need.

Mr. Gulen’s movement signals the start of a new era of world-class secular education and self-empowerment in the poorest African countries. Many graduates of these schools proceed to become teachers in their alma maters. Gulen’s schools in Africa are the best antidote to the extremism and civil war which threatens the future of many African nations.

Other philanthropists should also follow the example of Oprah and Gulen by providing an education and a better future for the African youth and their integration into the global work force.

Lachin Hatemi is a physician located in Buffalo, New York. His interests include human rights, racial equality and interfaith dialogue. You can reach Dr. Hatemi at [email protected]

Source: Your Black World , September 2013


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