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Oprah Winfrey to open school in South Africa

Oprah's proposed school will provide education to girls from poor families.

January 4, 2007

TV host Oprah Winfrey is due to open a new school she has funded in South Africa to give an education to girls from poor families. The school – in the small town of Henley-on-Klip south of Johannesburg – cost $40m (£20m) to build. 

Ms Winfrey herself interviewed many of the 3,500 South African girls from low-income families who applied for an initial 150 places at the school. Educational standards in South Africa have been falling, reports say. 

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy will eventually cater to 450 girls who show outstanding promise but whose families cannot support their education. The school incorporates 28 buildings, across a 20-hectare (50-acre) site, with hi-tech classrooms, computers and science laboratories. ] 

Ms Winfrey had promised to build the school six years ago, while visiting South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela. "When I first started making a lot of money, I really became frustrated with the fact that all I did was write cheque after cheque to this or that charity without really feeling like it was a part of me," she told America's Newsweek magazine. At a certain point, you want to feel that connection," she added. 

The girls who have been accepted come from families whose income is less than $700 (£350) a month. Winfrey, whose own background was disadvantaged, says she regards education as the door to freedom and she hopes these girls will be among South Africa's future leaders. 

CHARITY CASH: Oprah Winfrey has given more than 300 audience members $1,000 (£526) each to donate to a charitable cause. 

Winfrey, who has previously given her studio audience new cars and paid off their debts, gave each person a debit card loaded with the money. They can give the entire sum to one person – relatives are not eligible – or split it among charitable causes. 

She called the show her “favourite giveaway ever” describing it as the “gift of giving back.”

The 52-year-old TV chat show host told the audience: “I can honestly say that every gift I've ever given has brought at least as much happiness to me as it has to the person I've given it to. That's the feeling I want to pass on to you.”

Audience members also received a DVD recorder to record their stories for a future show. 

"You're going to open your hearts, you're going to be really creative, and you're going to spend it all at once on one stranger or spend a dollar on every person," Winfrey said. "Imagine the love and kindness you can spread with $1,000." 

In September 2004, Winfrey had given a new car to each member of her audience. A total of 276 Pontiac G6 sports sedans were given away to the all-female audience - worth $7m (£3.7m) in all.


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