Just Another Guy with Opinions

Girls Abused at Oprah’s School

Posted by shadmia on November 6, 2007


Oprah Winfey: Talk show host, actress, author, magazine publisher and philanthropist is probably the world’s richest African American woman with a net worth reported to be more than $2.5 billion. In 2000 she met with Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s leader, and made a promise to him to build a school in South Africa. This promise became a reality when the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls was opened in Jan. 2007. It cost $40 million to build. The 28-building campus sits on 52 acres of land and features state-of-the-art facilities. 152 students, who came from poor backgrounds, were chosen from 3,500 applicants.

On Oct. 6, 2007 a group of 15 students went to see John Samuels, the CEO of the school, with a list of complaints including the suspected sexual abuse of one of the students by a dorm matron, Tiny Virginia Makopo, 27. She was immediately removed from the school by Mr. Samuels. An investigation was launched and more girls came forward saying they too had suffered abuse at the hands of the same dorm matron. To her credit Oprah Winfrey was intimately involved in the investigation and personally spoke to the parents of all the students apologizing for the incident and promised to do:

“Whatever is necessary to make sure the academy becomes the safe, the nurturing and enriched setting that I had envisioned”.

According to the Afrikaans-language newspaper Rapport, the “dorm matron” allegedly grabbed a student by the throat and threw her against a wall. The woman is also alleged to have screamed at and assaulted her wards, as well as fondled at least one girl. The staffer has been put on probation pending an investigation. On November 1, 2007, Police Superintendent Lunge Dlamini announced that the 27 year old dorm matron had been arrested after seven students submitted statements alleging assault and various abuse at the hands of the employee.

Tiny Virginia Makopo, 27, was not asked to submit a formal plea. But she said she was “not guilty” of the 13 charges of indecent assault, assault and criminal injury against six students ages 13 to 15 and a 23-year-old fellow dormitory matron. Makopo was freed on $450 bail and ordered to return to court on Dec. 13.

Oprah Winfrey was adamant that the scandal had not affected her desire to help the girls achieve a better future.

“No one — not the accused nor any persons — can destroy the dream I have held and the dream that each girl continues to hold for herself at this school. Their lights will not be diminished by this experience,” she said.

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