When 12-year-old Iviwe Hlathi drifts into one of her daydreams, she chooses to explore the hallways and classrooms of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
Luckily for the Grade 7 Holy Cross Primary School pupil that daydream is about to become a reality as she prepares to jet-off to the academy next year after being accepted.
“I am still in shock. When I got the news, it was hard to believe, but I’m very excited and I‘m excited to start a new journey,” she said, struggling to contain her excitement.
Iviwe first heard about the academy from a close friend and later, her uncle downloaded some information regarding the academy in Henley on Klip near Meyerton, south of Johannesburg and as she browsed through the information, Iviwe immediately knew it was the place she wanted to be. After getting the registration form at Livingstone High School, she immediately submitted her application.
“I love very much everything about the academy, most the fact that they have excellent facilities and an even better pass rate. I am very excited, overjoyed, grateful and very happy to be getting this opportunity,” Iviwe said.
When media mogul Oprah Winfrey had a visit with Nelson Mandela in December 2000, she pledged to build a world-class school for girls in the country and two years later (December 6 2002), Madiba and former MEC for Education, the late Professor Kader Asmal, joined Oprah to break ground on the site of the academy.
In January 2007, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls officially opened its doors, starting off with Grade 8 girls, but they grew by one grade each year until it reached its full capacity in 2011, with approximately 380 pupils in grades 8 through 12.
Through personal donations, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation contributed more than US$40 million towards the academy’s creation.
Iviwe also dreams of becoming a doctor, as she hopes to one day help those in need, but does not wish to limit herself, as she said: “More than that, I want to achieve anything that I can put my mind to”.
She spends most of her days reading, listening to all kinds of music, watching television and also playing with her friends. Mathematics and Afrikaans are her two favourite subjects, but when she is not shining in the classroom, she enjoys a game of table tennis, netball, soccer, tennis and also enjoys a warm plate of samp and beans.
“Let them dream because nothing becomes a reality unless it was first a dream,” are the inspiring words of a very proud Holy Cross Primary principal, Donovan Williams.
“This is a most momentous and proud moment for us as an institution. It is what many parents and children dream of – enrolment at an institution of this calibre. I know that it will have a positive spin-off for Holy Cross in the future as Iviwe is a wonderful candidate to serve as an ambassador for our school. Surely it will open doors for other students from Holy Cross in the future,” he said.
He added that the school has embraced the news with “happiness and pride”.
“We are simply chuffed to know that one of our very own has won this scholarship, especially because the screening process is so rigorous and she has been selected from thousands of other children. It is truly an occasion to remember,” Mr Williams said.
Since the news surfaced about her acceptance at the academy, Iviwe has become somewhat of a celebrity at the school.
“People have been really nice and have been asking me lots of questions about the academy. They are very excited and are constantly telling me that they are,” Iviwe said.
When asked about what she looked forward to most, she replied: “I’m looking forward to learning more about leadership, staying at the boarding houses and making new friends.”