Aim higher, Oprah tells SA

15 January 2012 - 02:08 By PREGA GOVENDER
An emotional Oprah Winfrey at the first graduation ceremony of pupils to matriculate from her Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg. The class of 72 - most, if not all, born since apartheid's demise - scored a 100% pass rate and 188 distinctions between them Picture: JAMES OATWAY
An emotional Oprah Winfrey at the first graduation ceremony of pupils to matriculate from her Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg. The class of 72 - most, if not all, born since apartheid's demise - scored a 100% pass rate and 188 distinctions between them Picture: JAMES OATWAY

OPRAH Winfrey took a swipe at South Africa's modest matric pass requirements during the inaugural graduation of her first class of matrics yesterday.

Speaking at her Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg, she said: ''If you are working with boys or girls who are disadvantaged, people underestimate and set the bar too low.

"That is indicative of what you are testing. Leaders of the world, in order to run a successful company, [you] can't run a successful company working with 30% or 40%."

Winfrey said the criteria for passing matric was ''way down here''.

To get into university pupils need to pass at least three subjects with a minimum of 40% and three with a minimum of 30%.

Of the 72 who wrote matric from the school last year, 71 qualified for university admission and one achieved a pass enabling her to study towards a diploma.

The keynote speaker yesterday was former president Nelson Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, while the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, also attended.

A tearful Winfrey said: ''This is a day of triumph. A day of extraordinary victory. These girls were born into a nation that said, 'you are free'.''

She said building the school was "an investment in leadership [and] an investment in knowing that this class will prove that, when you invest in the leadership of girls, you invest in the leadership of the nation".

Machel congratulated the girls, saying they had been ''groomed and mentored'' by "one of the best women of our times".

Motshekga said people did not understand that government ran inclusive schools.

''As a state you can't exclude kids who are not that intelligent ... at the academy here they take all number ones, so all the numberless come to us - to the state. ''

She admitted to being emotional at the ceremony, saying: ''Here's a gift of life - the education that Oprah brought.''

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