2008: S.Africa: Oprah’s Embarrassing Girls’ school could end up expelling more…

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Original Post Date: 2008-04-18 Time: 00:00:00 Posted By: Jan

[It serves Oprah right actually. She has never worked with black people. She only hires and works with whites. This will be the first time she deals with Black people. And I hope it opens her eyes. May Oprah learn her lessons good and hard. It serves her right. Jan]

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy pupil who suffered a mental meltdown in her first term at the school has lost her status as one of the talkshow host’s “bright-eyed wonders”.

The 13-year-old girl is believed to have been expelled this week following a spell in Tara hospital.

And experts warn that if the school doesn’t improve its support structures to help the girls, taking into account that their disadvantaged backgrounds were precisely the reason why they were chosen to attend the prestigious school, they could find themselves forced to expel more pupils.

“The academy has made it clear that it wishes to assist young women who come from disadvantaged circumstances,” said a child psychologist who did not want to be named.

“[The girls] may have also suffered quite profound trauma in their lives. One hopes the school is fully equipped to deal with that.”

The girl was yesterday due to leave Tara, where she has spent the past eight weeks receiving psychiatric treatment, and return to her home in an impoverished rural area.

Identified by her former school as a top achiever, she was sent to Tara by staff after she began “self-harming” and became increasingly disruptive.

At Tara she was also diagnosed as epileptic, a condition which the academy had failed to pick up.

As yet, no official reasons for her expulsion have been provided.

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation spokesperson Lisa Halliday has declined to answer questions about the girl’s fate, telling the Saturday Star the school was unable to confirm or deny her expulsion.

“The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy’s primary concern is to protect the privacy and dignity of its learners.

“For this reason, it is our policy not to release details relating to any learner’s personal information,” she said.

Halliday’s privacy concerns apparently do not govern the information supplied on Winfrey’s own website, which contains clips of six pupils – whose faces are not obscured in any way – detailing the tragic circumstances of their lives.

Footage shows sisters Sade and Megan describe how their father shot their mother and then killed himself, and they are filmed visiting their parents’ graves, while 12-year-old Zodwa tearfully talks about the trauma of her mother’s HIV-related death.

Another child psychologist, who also asked not to be named, has told the Saturday Star it was not surprising that the school would be faced by pupils with psychological issues.

He hoped the pupil would receive counselling when she returned home.

“It would be very traumatic, actually quite devastating, for any child to be given what she believes to be the chance at a dream life and then to lose it – whatever the reasons.

“While I don’t know the exact details of what happened her, I think it’s reasonable to say this child would have been in a better position if she had not been chosen for the school in the first place.”

The latest revelations about the pupil’s mental breakdown is not the kind of publicity that the school – described by Winfrey as a place where pupils can “literally dwell in possibility” – would welcome.

The expulsion comes shortly before the April 21 court date set for the trial of Tiny Virginia Makopo, the former dormitory matron who is accused of abusing pupils at the academy.

Makopo stands accused of 13 charges of indecent assault, assault and crimen injuria involving schoolgirls between the ages of 13 and 15.

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?art_id=vn20080412082024833C719959

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