Ex-matron at Oprah school out on bail

A former dormitory employee at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg was released on R3 000 bail by the Sebokeng Magistrate’s Court on Monday. Virginia Mokgobo was arrested on charges of indecent assault, assault and crimen injuria.

According to Rapport newspaper, Mokgobo, formerly a matron at the school, allegedly fondled one of the pupils, and grabbed a girl by the throat and threw her against a wall. The report said other school employees were also implicated in misconduct.

The case against her was postponed to December 13 for further investigation. She was ordered not to leave the jurisdiction of the Vaal without informing the investigating officer. She is to report to the Sebokeng police station every Monday and she must not apply for a passport as part of her bail conditions.

The court also ordered that she must not make contact with the school and the complainants.

Six minor girls and one adult have submitted statements to the police regarding the allegations. Magistrate Thelman Simpson ordered that the names and photographs of the complainants not be published.

Security was tight and everyone entering the court was thoroughly searched, with police saying they “did not want to take chances with security measures”.

Rapport said Winfrey flew to South Africa to meet parents and school administrators. A tearful Winfrey asked parents to forgive her for letting them down, the newspaper quoted a parent, who attended one of the meetings, as saying.

“I’ve disappointed you. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” Winfrey is said to have told the parents.

The $40-million academy has been dogged by controversy since it opened in January with a star-studded launch attended by singers Mariah Carey, Tina Turner and Mary J Blige, comedian Chris Rock, actor Sydney Poitier and filmmaker Spike Lee.

In March, some parents complained the school was too strict and its restrictions on visits, phone calls and email contact were comparable to prison rules. Then, in May, some parents complained their children were not allowed junk food and when they visited the school they had to go through a security gate.

Tuition and board is free at the residential school. The academy provides its 450 students with textbooks, uniforms and meals.—Sapa, Reuters

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