Oprah Winfrey Academy produces 100% pass

WELL DONE: The full graduating class of 2017.

THE seventh graduating class of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG), affectionately referred to as the O-Mavericks, again achieved a 100 per cent pass rate – completing the National Senior Certificate under the Independent Examinations Board (IEB).

The class of 2017, consisting of 57 girls, maintained a 100 per cent bachelor’s degree pass rate which allows every girl to study towards a degree at university. They graduated with a total of 134 distinctions.

Born from a pledge by Oprah Winfrey to former president Nelson Mandela to provide a world-class educational platform for marginalised girls and nurture a new generation of dynamic leaders, OWLAG aims to cultivate a generation of strong, successful women who will be an inspiration and asset to their families and country. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of OWLAG.

“Each year, our graduates continue to be an inspiration to their juniors and the staff at OWLAG. Their hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence, both academically and social has shown that they have the ability to excel and to move beyond their challenging circumstances,” said Rebecca Sykes, president of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

While each OWLAG matric student achieved outstanding results, the Academy’s top five academic achievers passed with a combined 22 distinctions.

Based on IEB matric results, Arabela Chilwane is the 2017 top student, attaining distinctions for accounting (86 per cent), mathematics (82 per cent), physical sciences (85 per cent), English Home Language (86 per cent), Sesotho first additional language (87 per cent), economics (93 per cent) and life orientation (91 per cent).

Chilwane is planning on pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in 2018 and advises younger students not to refuse an opportunity if they get a glimpse of one, even if it does not look like their purpose or their passion.

The other top four students, Thembisile Malinga, Sandisile Mkhonza, Kaylene Reddy and Ayanda Sibanda, all acquired five distinctions each.

Thembisile Malinga says: “I will use the gift of education that was given to me by the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy to uplift and empower young girls and boys in my community and help them see and dream beyond their circumstances.”

She plans to study a bachelor of commerce in accounting (BCom Accounting) and will work towards becoming a chartered accountant.

Ayanda Sibanda, who is interested ns studying philosophy and economics, is passionate about economic equality. She would like to see herself as a driving force in carrying out equality. Her vision for South Africa is an economically inclusive society with many opportunities, as well as strategies implemented by the government to spark growth and innovation.

Kaylene Reddy, who will be studying BIS multimedia at the University of Pretoria, is passionate about education and using it to help break the cycle of poverty that exists in her community.

“Mom Oprah’s humility and generosity inspires me and I hope to one day afford other girls similar opportunities to what OWLAG has afforded me,” said Kaylene.

Sandisile Mkhonza is passionate about environmental conservation and youth empowerment through education and has created a NPO called ‘Dream. Believe. Achieve.’ that aims to empower the youth of her community in Tjakastad. Mkhonza was awarded best delegate at the SAIIA Wildlife Youth Forum in December 2017.

“We are delighted with the excellent results across the class of 2017. Their achievements are a testament that given the right support and environment, anyone despite their background, can be successful. We will continue to nurture this generation of transformative South African women leaders,” concluded Sykes.

A bit more about the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation

During a December 2000 visit with Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey pledged to build a school in South Africa. As that commitment broadened, she established The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, to which she contributed more than $200-million toward the creation of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls – South Africa (OWLAG). The Academy opened in January 2007 and currently serves grades eight through 12.

The academy welcomes talented, underprivileged girls to a new lifestyle, a world filled with knowledge, social skill development and possibilities. Located in a 28-building campus in Henley-on-Klip, the leadership academy is a state-of-the-art independent school that engenders high standards of academic achievement and service leadership for girls from all nine South African provinces who show outstanding promise despite their impoverished backgrounds and social circumstances.

Oprah’s vision is that the leadership academy will help develop the future leaders of South Africa and 2017 marked the seventh graduating class, with 100 per cent of the students graduating on to higher education in colleges and universities in South Africa including The University of Witwatersrand (Johannesburg), Rhodes University (Grahamstown) and University of Pretoria, and students studying throughout the United States at prestigious colleges such as Stanford University, Skidmore College, Spelman College and Brown University. A college fund was established to support and encourage these young leaders, and those that follow on their continuing journey.

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Shernovia Reddy

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