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March 31 2009

Oprah’s African School Rocked By Second Sex Scandal

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For GirlsThe Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy School for Girls is suffering its second sex scandal in under two years.

According to the New York Daily News, reports have come out of the Afrikaans on Sunday newspaper that seven students have been suspended from Oprah’s school for sexually harassing other students.  One 15-year-old girl was accused of sexually preying on another student, and then forcing other students to lie to investigators about it.  A letter to her parents said in part:

You have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus, harassment, bullying other girls on campus and of being dishonest by not telling investigators the whole truth.

Other girls were found guilty of fondling other students and trying to force girls to join them in sexual relations.

Back in October of 2007 a member of staff was discovered to have been abusing girls at the school, including sexual abuse. Oprah Winfrey was devastated by the news as she had been sexually abused as a child. She was said to have provided every girl in the school with a cell phone with her private phone number programmed into the speed dial so they could call her directly in case of any future abuses.

… did the phones somehow stop working?

Back in Scattercast Episode 26 – This Episode Not Recommended By Oprah, my friend “M”, and I discussed that the school was a mistake on Oprah’s part, and while we could commend her intentions, she should have done the project closer to home where she could keep an eye on it.  This isn’t to say that Africa is undeserving of a school such as this, but when you are taking on the responsibilities of caring for children in an environment that carries your name, you have to be more as hands on as possible.  Placing a school that bears your name half a planet away, you have to expect problems, and she sure is getting them.

In the span of 18 months this school has been rocked by scandals twice.  Once was a disgrace, twice is just inexcusable.  There is obviously something broken in the way she has set up her school, and until such time as she can correct it, the school should be shut down and a transparent study into how to improve the safety of her students should be conducted.  Is this what we’ll get?  Probably not.  Just like last time, we’ll probably get a sobbing Oprah coming on her show, telling us how this breaks her heart, and how she will be taking such-and-such steps to assure this never happens again, and instead of cell phones, this time the students will be given a giant spotlight with an “O” on it they can shine into the sky to summon Super Oprah to save them from whatever evils are happening at the school.

Personally I think it is time to call it a day with this school, and perhaps try it again in the USA with the kids who need help here at home.  She can more closely monitor how things are going, and once they have the bugs worked out here, then they could look into expanding into other parts of the world.  For now, this school which was once hailed by people such as Nelson Mandela as a singing example of people helping Africa, has becoming nothing more than an embaressment and a prime example of how people don’t always think through what they put their name on.



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  • I think there definitely needs to be some immediate changes regarding personnel at the school. However, closing the school might do more harm than good to those kids.