The graduation of the class of 2011 marks the end of an important chapter for the group who started at the Academy in 2007. Five of the learners obtained an average of over 85%, 14 scored over 80% average while 21 obtained over 75%. This means 40 of the 72 candidates, well over half, obtained 75% and above. Most remarkably, all but one of the students achieved an average of over 60%.
Leading the pack with seven distinctions is Gabisile Kgwedi, a keen violin, piano and tennis player who will be studying Medicine at the University Of Cape Town with a view to becoming a heart surgeon. Anne van Zyl, head of the Academy for the past two years, describes the milestone as “the most satisfying of her life”. She said she felty honoured to be part of a team that helps realise Oprah Winfrey’s dream of producing woman leaders in South Africa. Van Zyl attributes the success to the time that the learners and teachers have put in.
The full boarding facilities ensure that staff are available after hours so that, every Saturday, the student had extra classes. Van Zyl notes that the most gratifying aspect of working at the school is the students who, because of their disadvantaged economic background, are deeply committed to improving their circumstances and giving back to their communities through “servant leadership”.
Six of the students will pursue tertiary studies in the United States, with confirmed acceptances, while the rest will be spread across South African universities. The girls are funded through private-sector bursaries and scholarships from their respective institutions.
The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, having funded their entire high school education, plays no role, except subsistence funding, beyond their high school studies. Van Zyl notes that the bar has been set for the next generation, the class of 2012, who she is confident will do just as well as their predecessors. The latter were admitted as the founding group of Grade 7 in 2007, alongside this year’s achievers.