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

DRUM - - Contents - BY HOPEWELL MPAPU

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.”

HER FAM­ILY

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.”

HER FU­TURE

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.

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