Oprah’s school principal speaks from US

The suspended head of Oprah Winfrey’s controversial private academy for girls in Johannesburg says she is hurt and has fled to the United States, the Saturday Star reported.

Nomvuyo Nzamane broke her silence to deny flatly that she ever turned her back on girls allegedly abused by a school matron.

Speaking through her close friend, Philadelphia attorney Timothy McGowan, Nzamane said the response to this ”terrible crisis” has been to blame her, the newspaper reported. ”Contrary to reports, I had no knowledge of abuse. I did not and would never participate in any such cover-up.

”As the head of the academy, my track record had been of one who acted decisively and in the best interests of the child where there was even a hint of inappropriate speech or action on campus.”

McGowan said the allegations are totally unfounded and that his client is ”an extremely private person, and was extremely hurt that her good name had been tarnished”.

”She doesn’t want to make a nickel from this — she only wants to reinstate her good name of 20 years of great teaching both in the US and in South Africa.”

Nzamane reportedly said in a statement: ”I have always been, and will always be, a passionate advocate for children and their families and a South African patron devoted to participating in the important work of nation building through education.”

McGowan said when it became clear that her contract would not be renewed in January, Mzamane returned to the US, where she remains suspended by the academy on full pay.

The talk-show queen and founder of the school said on Monday systems at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls had failed the children there.

”Not the school, but the systems within the school failed the girls,” she said via satellite link from the United States, following Monday’s court appearance of former dormitory matron Tiny Makgabo.

Makgabo appeared in the Sebokeng Magistrate’s Court on charges of assault, indecent assault and crimen injuria.

Winfrey acknowledged that the civil and criminal background-screening processes for employees at the school had been inadequate and would be revised.

”Knowing what I know now, the screening process was inadequate. This has been one of the most devastating experiences of my life,” she said. — Sapa

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