Winfrey meets family of first child to complain of abuse

Oprah Winfrey has met with the family of the first pupil to complain of abuse at her elite school for disadvantaged South African girls, and invited the girl to return to the academy.

The United States magazine People quoted the father of the girl as saying they met for two hours with Winfrey on Sunday at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and that it was the first meeting since they had withdrawn their child from the school after staff ignored her complaints.

A spokesperson for Winfrey, Angela de Paul, confirmed the meeting and its purpose. The school had been heavily guarded over the weekend.

A dormitory matron has been accused of indecent assault and criminal injury against six students aged 13 to 15 and a 23-year-old fellow dormitory matron is to be charged in court next month.

Last month, Winfrey said school officials tried to hide the facts from her. She said she would not be renewing the contract of the suspended headmistress, who denies knowledge of any abuse, and indicated other staff also would be dismissed.

People quoted the pupil’s father, whom it did not name, as saying the meeting was very emotional.

He said he was very happy that Winfrey had invited his daughter to return to the school to complete eighth grade, and invited the family to an end-of-year party this week.

Talk Radio 702 said on Wednesday that Winfrey would stay at the school through the weekend, when it closes for the Christmas holiday.

Winfrey opened the school outside Johannesburg on January 2 2007 to great fanfare with celebrities in attendance including Tina Turner, Spike Lee, Sidney Poitier and former president Nelson Mandela.

The $40-million school was the fulfillment of a promise she made to Mandela six years ago, and aims to give girls from deprived backgrounds a quality education in a country where schools are struggling to overcome the legacy of white-minority rule. – Sapa-AP

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