JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Oprah Winfrey has met with the family of the first student to complain of abuse at her elite school for disadvantaged South African girls, and invited the girl to return to the academy.
People magazine 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. He said it was their first meeting since they had withdrawn their daughter from the school after staff ignored her complaints.
A spokeswoman for Winfrey, Angela de Paul, confirmed the meeting and its purpose. The school had been heavily guarded over the weekend.
A dormitory matron, who has been accused of indecent assault and criminal injury against six students aged 13-15 and a 23-year-old fellow dormitory matron, is to be charged in court next month. She has said she is innocent.
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 she knew about the 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.
Winfrey opened the school outside Johannesburg on Jan. 2 to great fanfare with celebrities in attendance including Tina Turner, Spike Lee, Sidney Poitier and former South African 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.