Oprah academy girls’ MXit shame

2008-09-14 00:00

Johannesburg — Oprah Winfrey has taken back the fancy cellphones she gave pupils at her exclusive academy because they performed poorly in their June exams.

Apparently, they spent far too much time on the cellphone chat service, MXit.

Sunday Afrikaans newspaper Rapport understands that only 50% of the pupils in Oprah’s school have passed their exams. And, apparently, the queen of chat is not impressed.

Although the school did not want to respond to Rapport’s inquiries, two parents — from Soweto and Mitchell’s Plain (Cape Town) — confirmed that they had received circulars informing them of the poor results and that the cellphones had been taken away.

The school had hoped to achieve a pass rate of 85%.

The girls’ Samsung E250 cellphones have been replaced by the more-modest Nokia 1200, which does not allow access to MXit.

In the almost two years since the school’s inception, the girls have been allowed to freely communicate with their families and friends via MXit between Friday and Sunday evenings. Now, their cellphones are given to them only on Saturday afternoons, and they are limited to making calls and sending SMSs. Their study times have also been extended.

While the girls previously studied from 6 pm to 8.30 pm, they now also have to study at weekends. “This is a very good thing,” said one parent from Soweto.

“They can now focus on their work. I also want my daughter to make the most of the opportunity Oprah is giving her.”

When Tiny Makopo, a dormitory matron at the school, was arrested for allegedly sexually harassing and assaulting pupils, Oprah decided to give the children new cellphones so that they could communicate such problems to her.

The Samsung E250 cellphones will be returned to the girls at the end of November.

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