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.

Executive Committee
Gugu Ndebele

Gugu Ndebele

Executive Director

Dumisani Tshabalala

Dumisani Tshabalala

Academic Leading Team

Dumisani Tshabalala

Michelle Williams

Academic Leading Team

Dumisani Tshabalala

Thembi Mkhwanazi

Dean of Students

Dumisani Tshabalala

Pat Hadebe

Finance Manager

Dumisani Tshabalala

Ntsiki Dlepu

HR Manager

Dumisani Tshabalala

Deon Pohl

Head of Operations

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

2020 Matric Results

In 2020, 48 OWLAG students wrote the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) National Senior Certificate examinations. The details are as follows:

Bachelor Degree Pass

"Outstanding Achievements” - 33.53% of all examinations written resulted in Level 7 Achievements (Distinctions; 80% and above).

“Meritorious Achievements” - 35.03% of examinations written resulted in Level 6 Achievement (70% - 79%).

“Substantial Achievements” - 20.10% of examinations written resulted in Level 5 Achievement (60% - 69%).

Our Top Achievers

Big congratulations go out to the top 3 students in the Grade who achieved 5 distinctions each:

Nosipho Felicity Makalima – achieved 93% in Mathematical Literacy; 89% in IsiZulu FAL; 89% in Life Orientation; 84% in History, 81% in Dramatic Arts; 76% in Geography and 75% in English.

Mbalenhle Khumalo – achieved 90% in IsiZulu FAL; 86% in Life Orientation; 84% Computer Applications Technology; 83% in Geography (83%); 82% in Mathematics; 77% in Physical Sciences and 74 % in English.

Tshepang Malebye – achieved 89% Life Orientation; 88% in Information Technology; 85% in Mathematics; 80% in Sesotho and Physical Sciences; 78% in English and 74% in Accounting.

Top 1% In Subjects Nationally

We are also extremely proud of two of our students who achieved in the top 1%, in the country in certain subjects:

Modjadji Tetelo Cassandra Francis – English Home Language

Dimakatso Mokebe – Sesotho First Additional Language

We are also very proud of the following students, who achieved great results:

4 Distinctions Each
1. Modjadji Francis
2. Yasmin Govender
3. Lerato Fani
4. Ruth Rooi
5. Progress Chendume
3 Distinctions Each
1. Nomaswazi Mkhonza
2. Cassandra Tshabalala
3. Nomvelo Tembe
4. Lynn Mbatha
5. Valentine Rampora
6. Paballo Sibiya
7. Kamogelo Malatsi
8. Acacia Manzini
9. Lusanda Mpedi
10. Thimna Stokwe
11. Debbie Sibiya
12. Kagiso Mojela
13. Ndingoho Mufandilani
14. Ane De Wee

A further 10 students obtained 2 distinctions each and 14 students obtained 1 distinction each.

We are proud of ALL our students as 46 of our 48 students for this great achievement despite the odds.

Overall OWLAG Statistics

47 Candidates wrote all their subjects.

47 achieved a Bachelor’s Degree pass (100%).

1 Learner has opted to complete 2 subjects in the May exam of 2021.

OWLAG achieved higher than the national IEB averages in 13 out of 18 subjects (excluding Life Orientation) in their exam IEB average.

48 students wrote a total of 334 subjects among them and achieved the following outstanding results:

of all the subjects written produced results better than 60%

out of 48 students achieved a Subject Distinction in 1 or more subjects

of subjects written scored above the national average

out of 48 students achieved distinctions in Life Orientation

subjects achieved an average of 80% or above

subjects achieved an average of 70% or above

subjects achieved an average of 60% or above

We are extremely proud of all our girls. Many, if not all of them, overcame significant challenges over the last five years, and especially last year, and have come up on top. They not only leave academically successful, but they also leave resilient, courageous, tenacious and VICTORIOUS. We wish them well for their future. Well done to the O’ Undaunted for a job well done.

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.