Four of Oprah’s “girls” on graduating
The media icon’s gift to Madiba has put many South African girls on the path to success. DRUM sits down with four recent graduates from Oprah’s top-class academy
NELSON Mandela met countless celebrities – many of whom jetted in and out of South Africa, proud to pose for a picture with the great man and share an anecdote or two. But one celeb’s meeting with Madiba ended with a promise – one she kept, to the letter.
Oprah Winfrey swore she would build a school for girls in South Africa and help them get the education of their dreams, paving the way for a future ripe with hope and opportunity. And now those girls are reaping the fruit of the media mogul’s generosity and are keeping the legacy of the former president alive.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG), in Henley on Klip in Gauteng, opened its doors in 2007 at a cost of $40 million (R515 million).
Ten years later, hundreds of young women, all from poor homes, have passed through the school. Madiba is no doubt smiling down with pride and gratitude.
To mark the school’s 10th birthday, we spoke to four of Oprah’s “daughter girls”, as she calls them – recent graduates Mohau Matinketsa, Mpolise Kanase, Thato Tema and Andrea Beyers – about their time at the school and what the future holds.
WHAT SHE’S LEARNT
Living at the boarding school taught Mohau many things, she says – one of the most valuable lessons she learnt was that real women don’t put each other down.
“They build each other up, always making sure their happiness is not the result of another woman’s misfortunes. I know my value as a woman and I will not let any other person dictate how I’m supposed to be or tell me how beautiful I am by pointing out other women’s weaknesses or flaws,” she says.
Oprah taught her that success comes from helping others. “She showed us that what you put in is what you get out – that you should teach people how to treat you. From her selfless acts, I realised you are not successful until you have helped others.”
Mohau, who lives in Tembisa with her parents, older sister and nephew, says her mom is “a very happy, proud parent. She and my sister say my graduation was one of the greatest moments of their lives.
“They see it as me taking a step closer to being successful and helping my family to live a better life.”
The former Miss Teen Tembisa 2015 is now a first-year student of strategic communication at the University of Johannesburg.
“I’ve become very independent and I’m going to work hard to make sure I don’t depend on a man to put food on the table,” Mohau says.
She intends to continue the community work she started at the academy – giving extra lessons to learners and helping students with university applications.
“The business I want to start is based on grooming the youth, so I’ll be giving back to the community in many ways,” she promises.