Go inside Oprah's school
A new behind-the-scenes documentary, which followed the first batch of pupils at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, is to premiere locally next week.
The 85-minute feature, First Graduating Class: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, is an emotional look at the lives of the pupils who made up the first class in 2007, when the R334-million school first opened.
It includes moving testimonials from unemployed parents who had no spousal support in raising their daughters and reflections from girls placed on academic probation for failing to achieve marks over 60% (in the end the school achieved a 100% pass rate).
It shows the US media mogul having "bone-marrow-truth conversations" with the pupils when the road got rough.
The school made headlines for all the wrong reasons when a teacher was accused of sexually harassing pupils. (Winfrey herself was sexually abused as a child.)
She decided to create the school after visiting Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel.
"When you talk about education around the world for children who are disadvantaged, be it in New Jersey or KwaZulu-Natal, people lower their expectations for what they think a disadvantaged child can do and be. Ultimately, what I wanted for these girls was to take that on," Winfrey says.
Also captured are the many celebrities the pupils met while at the school, from Sidney Poitier to Chris Rock and Mariah Carey .
During one talk with the pupils, Winfrey tells them: "Matric? Easy. And I really do mean that. If every single girl in this school doesn't pass matric then we all will have failed.
"That is no great accomplishment to me - that you all pass matric. It is expected. It is a given. You're damn right you're going to pass matric. Damn right."
As the documentary ends and Lira's songChange the World begins, the achievements of the school's best-performing pupils are noted.
Bongeka Zuma, who achieved six distinctions and finished first in her class, is now attending Atlanta's Spelman College.
Mashadi Kekana is at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, while Thando Dlomo received a full scholarship to the Johnson C Smith University in North Carolina.
The documentary will premiere on DStv's TLC next Friday at 6.30pm.