Posted Nov. 5, 2007 – Talk-show diva Oprah Winfrey says she was so torn up about an abuse scandal at her South Africa academy for girls that she was "shaken" to her "core."
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"It has been the most devastating experience of my life,” she told journalists at a news conference in Johannesburg Monday.
Praising the girls she said reported suspicions of abuse to the school, Winfrey, herself a child victim of abuse, told reporters, "A horrible situation has been uncovered and rooted out.”
"They represent, those 15 girls, the new generation of youth in South Africa who fearlessly take back their voices to speak up about their concern for their fellow classmates... .I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to make sure that the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls becomes the safe and nurturing and enriched setting that I had envisioned," Winfrey said.
As a result of the allegations, Winfrey said she will not renew the contract of accused employee Virginia Mokgobo, the dorm matron, and says she's “cleaning house from top to bottom.”
“The girls cheered and wept they were so happy,” said Winfrey describing the students’ reaction to her removing all of the dorm staff.
Last Thursday, South African police arrested the accused former dormitory matron, who is accused of physically abusing students and fondling at least one of them. She was released on bond Monday.
This incident isn’t the school’s first taste of controversy.
Since the school opened in January, it has faced criticism from parents who claimed the $40 million academy was prison-like, with many restrictions on visits, phone use and email.
Watch the video to see why Winfrey suspected there was more than one abuse victim.