21 August 2006
American talk show host Oprah Winfrey has told the girls admitted to her leadership academy to work hard so that they can enter university anywhere in the world.
“I’m going to ensure that every girl who wants to go to university will go, either in South Africa or anywhere in the world, all you have to do is work hard,” Winfrey said.
The famous television personality was speaking at a celebratory event in Johannesburg on Sunday to welcome the first 75 learners from Gauteng who will be studying at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
The school, at Henley-on-Klip in Meyerton, south of Johannesburg, will accommodate 75 learners per grade, for a total of 450 from Grade 7 to 12.
Learners from other provinces have yet to be notified about their admission to the school.
Accompanied by their parents, the Gauteng girls came to the event without knowing they had been accepted at the academy.
Winfrey has donated over R100-million four years ago to start the school for girls from previously disadvantaged communities. The 26-building campus boasts a library, a gym, a hostel and a theatre.
It is set to provide a “rigorous” yet supportive educational environment to engender high standards of academic achievement and service leadership for girls who show outstanding performance, despite their social circumstances.
‘Dream come true’
Winfrey told the girls and their parents that she once dreamt about a group of girls who were in Africa. In the dream, she could only identify the girls by their faces.
“I would see their brown faces but couldn’t say their names. I would wake up before they told me their names,” Winfrey said, adding that she now knew their names – citing one: Lindiwe.
Because she was “blessed with education,” Winfrey said she thought it best to give back to African children in realising her dream. Raised by her grandmother in the rural Mississippi, she said: “I wanted to do this school for disadvantaged girls because I was disadvantaged myself.”
Safe educational environment
The chosen pupils were more than happy to be part of that dream. They screamed with joy, did a jig, and hugged each other as their names were called out. They will now form part of Class 7 and 8 next year.
Winfrey had words for the girls’ parents. “I want you to know that these are our daughters, I want you to trust me with them. I will create a good education environment for them and the world will know who these girls are.”
She added that she would come back to South Africa before the school opens on 2 January 2007 and take all parents to the campus so they could see that their children would be at a safe place.
She said that there was a major high-tech security system at the school, adding that she would do everything in her power to ensure that the children were in a safe environment.
Busisiwe Zasekhaya (12) of Alexandra, who has been accepted for Grade 7, told BuaNews that she would do her best to make the country proud. “It feels like a dream come true. I will make use of this opportunity to make my aunt and the country proud,” the 12-year-old said.
Her aunt and legal guardian, Sibongile Zasekhaya, described the young girl as “bright and hardworking”.
After completing her studies, Busisiwe said she wanted to become a businesswoman who would help HIV/Aids orphans.
The principal for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Cordy Mageza, also reassured parents about the safety of the girls in the school. ” I am sure that these girls will work hard to make you and the country proud.”