School's out for 1st Oprah Winfrey class

2011-11-30 21:59

Henley-on-Klip - The first graduating pupils at Oprah Winfrey's school for South African girls have finished their exams, with all of them set for university studies, the head of the academy said on Wednesday.

Results of their final exams will only be released in January, but all 72 pupils at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls are set for further studies either in South Africa or abroad, Anne van Zyl said in a statement.

"This is, of course, an extra special time for the school as well as the girls," she said.

"This year marks an important milestone in bringing to fruition the vision of our founder, Oprah Winfrey.

"In just five years the academy has established itself as a place that nurtures talent and excellence. As a school we've come through some important challenges and learned lessons along the way," Van Zyl said.

The girls now plan to study everything from medicine and law to arts and engineering, the statement said. Several have won full scholarships, others are still waiting for decisions on bursaries.

Two are set to attend American universities, eight are headed to schools in other countries, and 62 have been accepted at South African universities.

The multi-million-rand school, founded with Winfrey's own money, opened in 2007 in a ceremony attended by ex-president Nelson Mandela.

The initial classes of girls at the school were aged between 11 and 13, chosen after an initial 3 500 applications, with Winfrey choosing the final 152 for their academic and leadership qualities as well as their disadvantaged background.

Harsh attention

One of the pupils, Mpumi Nobiva, was raised by her grandmother in a neighbourhood beset by poverty and crime after her mother died of Aids, AP reported on Wednesday.

Now one of the first to graduate from the school, she is headed to Johnson C Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, to  study visual and performing arts.

Winfrey will be at the school for graduation ceremonies in January, school officials said on Wednesday.

The school has drawn sometimes harsh attention because of the celebrity who founded it, and also because of early problems.

Pupils have been accused of being spoiled. Allegations that a woman employed to care for the girls in their dormitory had instead abused teens were the subject of headlines around the world.

The woman was acquitted last year.

Earlier this year, a newborn born to a pupil at the school was found dead, again drawing international attention.

"Yes, we've had bad coverage," Nobiva said. "But it has certainly made us stronger."

- AP
Read more on:    oprah winfrey  |  johannesburg  |  education  |  celebrities
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