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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 16:04 GMT
Oprah takes action on abuse case
Oprah Winfrey attends the opening of the academy in Jan 2007
The academy aims to offer an elite education to daughters of the poor
US chat-show host Oprah Winfrey says she is devastated by charges of abuse at her girls' academy in South Africa and has spelled out the action taken.

Virginia Mokgobo, who worked at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy near Johannesburg, has appeared in court charged with indecent assault.

Ms Winfrey has previously said she was herself abused as a child and has campaigned against abuse in the US.

She said she was "cleaning house from top to bottom" at the academy.

Ms Mokgobo, 27, worked as a dormitory matron at the school and was arrested last week on charges including assault, indecent assault and soliciting under-age girls to perform indecent acts.

She has been released on bail until her next court appearance on 13 December.

At least seven girls have submitted statements with allegations of abuse, police said.

Praise for students

Ms Winfrey described the charges as one of the most devastating experiences in her life, and said she had not renewed the head mistress's contract.

"We are removing the dorm parents, and as I have said to the girls, [we are] cleaning house from top to bottom," she told journalists in South Africa via a live satellite link up to Chicago.

She praised the students who reported the alleged abuse.

"My experience with child predators is that no-one ever, ever abuses just one child," she said.

Ms Winfrey has in the past spoken of the abuse she suffered as a child and campaigned for laws in the US to protect children from abusers.

She said that because of the high rates of rape and sexual abuse in South Africa, she had tried to ensure predators would not be able to reach students at the school.

Ms Winfrey said: "As often is the case, child abuse, sexual abuse happens right within the family, right within the confines of people you know."

The school was opened in January at a cost of $40 million.

Ms Winfrey pledged to build the academy after a meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela six years ago and personally interviewed many of the South African girls from low income families who applied for the initial 150 places at the school.

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