Winfrey's 'Devastation' At School Abuse Allegations

OPRAH WINFREY has spoken out about her "devastation" upon hearing of the allegations of child abuse taking place at her all-girls academy in South Africa. The media mogul recently (Oct07) visited the Henley-on-Klip Leadership Academy, which she co-founded in 2006, after hearing reports a matron at the boarding school had molested a pupil. Several more alleged victims have since come forward - making a total of 15. Former employee Virginia Mokgobo, 27, was arrested on Thursday (29Oct07) on numerous charges including assault, indecent assault and soliciting underage girls to perform indecent acts, after a local newspaper article brought attention to the matter last month (Oct07). Mokgobo has now been freed on bail of 3000 rand ($458/GBP229), after a brief appearance in a Johannesburg court on Monday (05Nov07). The case has been postponed until December 13 (07) to facilitate further investigation. Speaking at a video news conference in Chicago, Illinois, on Monday (05Nov07), Winfrey voiced her disdain at the conduct of the disgraced dorm parents - who have since been fired from their positions - and pledged to do everything she can to ensure the pupils receive the best care available. And Winfrey has credited her spiritual strength for helping her deal with the pressure of the situation. She said, "This is one of the most devastating experiences of my life, but there's a lot to be gained, a lot to be learnt. (But) we are moving forward. What I know is that no one, not the accused, will destroy the dream that I have held (for this academy) and I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure it becomes the safe, nurturing place that I have envisioned. "(When I found out about the allegations) I was so stunned I couldn't wrap my brain around it. I was going from room to room in my house crying. But I pulled myself together and started making calls, to find out how best to look after the girls. "I take it very personally as I said to the girls this summer before any I knew any of this was going on. I said to them, 'I am a mama bear when it comes to protecting my children', and these girls are like my children. I take the responsibility of what their futures hold personally. I don't feel it's harmed my personal reputation as I have not done anything wrong. "It's a horrible situation but (when I spoke to the girls) I encouraged them to speak up to protect themselves and their fellow classmates, that this is about taking their voices back. I assured them that the abuse will end and good will prevail." "(The case) has shaken me to my core, but at the core is a spiritual foundation and my belief that everything happens for a reason and these things will pass. "I am grateful to their parents, guardians and their caretakers for their continued support. "The resilience of the human spirit is stronger than hatred, violence and loss, and it's also stronger than any abuse. Their (the girls') lights will not be diminished by this experience."


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