The Academy

Message from our Founder

Ms. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

I can hardly believe that more than 10 years ago we officially opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and welcomed our first class of itty bitty students, they were like young pups.

I'm so proud of all the incredible accomplishments of the students and of our alumnae. I am proud of our faculty who work tirelessly, giving up long hours; sacrificing their own families and engagements in their own lives to give to our girls. I am thankful to the OWLAG Board for their support and their guidance. I am grateful for all the families and communities that have supported our vision of creating a safe space to educate, to nurture, to empower and, of course, to inspire this next generation of leaders for South Africa and for the world.

As most of you know this school was my idea of a gift, not just to South Africa but in particular to Madiba. During my first visit to Nelson Mandela's home, back in 2002, I pledged to build a school for girls in South Africa because he and I both discussed and agreed that education was a way to end poverty in the nation of South Africa. The Academy opened its doors five years later, in 2007.

I was overcome with emotion, another five years later, as I witnessed the first graduating class of 72 students - that first Matric class walking across the stage in their beautiful dresses to accept their high school certificates. All of those young ladies were accepted into universities and colleges in and around South Africa as well as in the United States. Our alumnae are now graduating college and university and determining how they are going to make their mark in the world. I could not feel any more honored and proud of the work they have done to accomplish their goals and achieve their dreams.

I know it's just the beginning. Each graduating class continues to strive for their personal best because that is all I ask of them for this great gift of education - their personal best. Each class continues to aim to bring positive change to their communities, their hometowns, their families and of course to themselves because what I know for sure is that education continues to be the key to transforming lives. I know too, that when you educate a girl she takes what she learns back to her community. When you invest in a young woman you are investing in the future, not only of South Africa but also of the world. So these young ladies are a symbol and a beacon of light, of what is possible. One of the most rewarding things in my life has been to see them blossom into the women I knew they could become when I first saw them as young pups coming into the school.

Thank you to the leadership and to all who continue to support the Academy and the Foundation. Our work continues.

History of the Academy

Oprah and Madiba breaking the groundDuring her visit with the late Nelson Mandela in December 2000, Oprah Winfrey pledged to build a world-class school for girls in South Africa. Two years later, on 6 December 2002, Mr Mandela and the then Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, joined Ms Winfrey to break ground on the site of the Academy - located in Henley on Klip in Gauteng province.

In January 2007, the Academy officially opened its doors to girls in Grades 7 and 8, and now serves approximately 290 girls from Grade 8 to 12.

Through a generous personal donation made by Ms Winfrey, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation (OWLAF) contributed more than US$40 million towards the Academy's creation. The Foundation continues to fund the school and its boarding facilities. The Foundation is a Section 21 company registered in South Africa, as well as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation and a US 501(c)(3).

Our Philosophy

The theme of leadership and leadership development is integrated throughout the Academy in both its academic and social activities. This emphasis is rooted in the South African principle of Ubuntu, which encompasses the ideals of humanity, compassion and service to others. The spirit of Ubuntu is incorporated throughout the Academy, and is central to the way in which students think, speak and interact with others.

Throughout their years at the Academy, students learn to embody the spirit of Ubuntu and are able to harness their leadership skills to serve and inspire those around them. Their self-confidence is balanced by compassion and their assertiveness by a sense of responsibility to others.

Most importantly, we strive to raise future leaders who are able to navigate a variety of social and cultural contexts, and who will remain committed to the development of South Africa and the African continent.

Our Vision

We support the development of a new generation of dynamic women leaders.

By virtue of their unique education, it is our hope that this generation will lead a positive and enduring transformation of their communities and country.


Our Mission

We strive to provide a nurturing educational environment for academically gifted girls who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our educational programmes are designed for girls in Grades 8 to 12 who have demonstrated academic talent and leadership potential.

We equip students with the intellectual and social skills necessary to assume positions of leadership in South Africa and abroad.


Our Values

We support the development of a new generation of women leaders who, by virtue of their education and service, will lead the charge to transform themselves, their communities, and the larger world around them. This goal adheres to the Academy’s principles of Ubuntu, which encompass the ideals of humanity, compassion and service to others. The spirit of Ubuntu permeates the Academy and is central to the way in which students think, speak, act and interact with others.

We bring the principles of Ubuntu to life with a focus on four core values:



Respect for the inherent dignity of every individual is a fundamental tenet of the Academy’s teachings. This respect is manifested through an acceptance of the diversity of cultures, backgrounds, beliefs and ideas represented by the Academy’s community of students, staff and friends.



Honour is the foundation upon which students’ thoughts, actions and interactions are based. Students undertake their actions guided by a sense of trust, integrity and responsibility for the decisions that they make.



Students are expected to develop a lifelong commitment to the service of others. This commitment is actively nurtured at the Academy through students’ engagement in service projects that aim to improve the lives and circumstances of individuals and communities.



Students are expected to demonstrate compassion for the less privileged, the vulnerable and others in need. This sense of compassion is made active through service projects and other activities that students undertake to offer assistance and support to their fellow human beings whenever possible. These values underpin our expectations for student conduct. Disciplined and responsible behaviour, coupled with an understanding of and respect for the rights of other students is essential for the development of harmonious relationships in the Academy.


Academic Philosophy

Our approach is to integrate the academic and leadership curricula so that students experience the school day as a balanced journey of personal development. We promote learning practices that provide students with an education that ensures they are actively involved in the learning process so that what they learn becomes a part of them. In essence, this practice focuses on intellectual growth and the development of leadership skills, coupled with the contextual understanding of when and how to use these skills. Our class sizes are small with a student teacher ratio of no more than 18:1.

Academic Curriculum

Our academic programme provides students with an education that is critical to a successful personal and professional life.

We offer the IEB academic curriculum for Grades 8 through to 12.

South African National Senior Certificate Independent Examinations Board (IEB) Curriculum

  • Home Language: English
  • First Additional Language: Afrikaans, IsiZulu and SeSotho
  • Mathematics/ Mathematical Literacy
  • Physical Science and Life Sciences
  • Accounting, Business Studies and Economics
  • Geography and History
  • Arts: Dramatic Arts and Visual Arts as a 7th subject; Dance and Music as a 8th subject
  • Information Technology
  • Computer Applications Technology
  • Life Orientation

2019 Matric Results

The OWLAG Class of 2019 once again achieved a 100% Pass and a 100% Bachelor’s Degree Pass, permitting the entire cohort to enrol for degree studies at university.

students wrote the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) National Senior Certificate examinations

Pass rate and Bachelor Degree Pass

Distinctions Achieved

Our Top Achievers

Tshwanelo Mafatle who achieved 6 distinctions in the 7 subjects she wrote. Her subjects include Sesotho FAL (89%); Economics (86%); Accounting (91%); Life Orientation (88%); Mathematics (93%) and Physical Sciences (87%).

Khwezi Bhekwa – achieved distinctions in the following subjects: English (81%), Mathematical Literacy (87%), IsiZulu (92%), Life Orientation (88%), Business Studies (82%) and Dramatic Arts (84%).

Tshepang Mpinga – English (81%), Mathematics (80%), Sesotho FAL (87%), Life Orientation (85%), Business Studies (85%) and Life Sciences (81%).

We are also very proud of Nkosiphile Mavunda who achieved in the top 1% in Mathematical Literacy, in South Africa. Further notable achievements include the following:

  • 28 0ut of 30 of our learners achieved distinctions in Mathematical Literacy.
  • As a school that prides itself with promoting languages, we are extra proud that in IsiZulu we received 24 out of 24 distinctions.
  • 2 out of our 2 Learners achieved distinctions in Dance Studies.
  • 58 out of 59 Learners achieved distinctions.

Eight students achieved 5 distinctions each: Noluthando Thandaza Dlamini, Liya Vally, Nkosiphile Mavundla, Veronic Barbra van der Westhuizen, Kimmy Tina Sithole, Mamello Mbele, Pearl Reabetswe Sekgethela and Alutho Zomsi Mdzoyi.

A further twelve students achieved 4 distinctions each: Nosipho Mpangase, Slindokuhle Angel Sibiya, Sthembile Gayeni, Lithemba Luleka Hope Manana, Margarida Moirer Lenaneo Ndlovu, Sindiswa Sixolile Thusi, Khazimla Sobantu, Zuki Dlomo, Anda Oyisa Mabliso, Sinazo Ngugu, Kaamila Sissing and Télyn Chloe Manuel.

A further 21 students obtained 3 distinctions each and 13 students obtained 2 distinctions each. We are also proud of the 2 students who obtained 1 distinction each.

Our students wrote a total of 417 subjects among them and achieved outstanding results.

Strengths of the OWLAG Achievements are noted as follows:

out of 19 subjects with averages above the national average

subjects with an average of 80% or above

subjects with an average of 70% or above

subjects with an average of 60% or above

Well done to the Class of 2019 on producing such pleasing results! Our best wishes accompany them all as they embark on their tertiary studies in 2020.

The Campus

With its unique and peaceful location, the OWLAG campus provides a nurturing educational and residential environment. Spanning 21 hectares (52 acres), the Academy’s 28 buildings are carefully designed to maintain the architectural integrity of the surrounding community.

Twenty-one state-of-the-art classrooms and six labs - including art, science, computer and design technology - are located along the Street of Learning. Each classroom has an outdoor study area as well as SMART Board™ technology.

To support learning beyond the classroom, we have provided additional cultural facilities which include a 10,000 volume library, a 600-seat theatre and multi-functional stage, music practice rooms, an outdoor amphitheatre, sports fields, gymnasium and a well-equipped wellness centre.

The students reside in modern dormitories along the Street of Living.



The OWLAG library is a complete information resource centre designed to serve the students, teachers and support staff of OWLAG. It is a welcoming space that seats 97 users at tables, carrels, couches and arm chairs. There is a smaller area within the library that is available for students and teacher to use for seminars, teaching, meetings or group study. In the front of the library is an area called the Living Library, which holds books that were donated by guests that Ms. Oprah Winfrey invited to the Academy’s opening ceremony. Each of these books contains a personalised message from its original owner.



Our 600-seat theatre and multi-function stage has brought the world to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls and our girls to the world. From performances from some of the world’s top artists to our first Graduation Ceremony, every one who has ever stood on the stage or sat in the audience has walked away enriched in more ways than one.



State-of-the-art technology is available in the Academy’s 21 classrooms and 6 laboratories. The computer laboratory offers the latest technology and there are computers throughout the campus for the girls’ use. Grades 10-12 students are provided with laptops. There is a rollout plan to provide all students with laptops in the next couple of years.


Dining Room

Our mission is to ensure that students follow a healthy eating plan. We have two main kitchens - the hot kitchen and the cold kitchen, where we prepare 1200 healthy meals per day (breakfast, lunch and supper). We also cater for all religious groups and special dietary requirements, as well as for functions, board meetings, and special events.



Students reside in one of five residences on campus, which are supervised 24 hours a day by a residential staff member. The residences are designed to provide entertainment and relaxation, as well as personal growth and leadership.




Dance Studio


Art Collection

As part of her vision to create a school like no other in Africa, Oprah hired 500 South African artists and artisans to paint, weld, sculpt, draw, and weave their extraordinary talent into the aesthetics of the school.