Oprah Gets Complaints from Parents that Her Boarding School is Too Strict

Parents of girls enrolled in Oprah Winfrey’s boarding school in South Africa are complaining that its rules are too strict.

Spokespeople for the celebrity’s Leadership Academy Foundation issued this statement in reply: “Our goal is to protect the health, welfare and well-being of the students at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. As with other boarding schools, we provide a structured safe and nurturing environment in which girls can learn and develop.”

The Academy, south of Johannesburg, opened in January 2007 at a cost of over $40 million.

Students can have one approved visit per month with up to four family members at a time. Students may not use cell phones or email. Parents told a South African newspaper that the rules make it hard to keep in touch with their daughters. They also complained that they cannot give food treats to their children.

Foundation spokespeople said that parents are allowed to bring food, but not junk food. However, the school staff encourages family members to bring books, journals or educational materials instead of food.

John Samuel, chief operating officer of the Academy, said, “We have the security and well-being of the girls at heart in every respect. They are our priority.”

Oprah Winfrey personally interviewed many of the 3500 applicants for her school. The Leadership Academy will eventually serve 450 students of “outstanding promise” from families whose income is under $700 per month.