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Oprah Celebrates First Doctoral Graduate from Her South African School

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Prince Jean

Jun 19, 2024

Oprah Winfield

Oprah Celebrates Doctoral Achievement of South African School Alumna Bongeka Zuma. Instagram:@oprah

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey recently expressed her immense pride as Bongeka Zuma, one of the first students from her South African school, earned her Doctor of Medicine degree from Stanford University.

On June 17, Winfrey shared a heartfelt message dedicated to Bongeka Zuma after attending her graduation. She also posted numerous photos and videos from the event on Instagram.

“I’ve attended 22 graduations for all my daughter-girls who came from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa to colleges and universities across the United States,”

Winfrey wrote.

“This one was extra special. Daughter-girl Bongeka first graduated summa cum laude from Spelman, then earned her master’s degree at Oxford, and this weekend she received her hard-earned Doctor of Medicine from Stanford University.”

Winfrey added that “one of the great joys” of her life was witnessing Dr. Zuma walk across the stage.

“Knowing where she’s come from, a small community in KwaZulu-Natal, and how strongly she believed in becoming a doctor,”

Winfrey continued.

“She never gave up, and with the support of good friends, fellow OWLAG sisters, and professors, we all celebrated her achievement with great pride. Congratulations, Dr. Zuma. Well done! Well done!”

The first video in Winfrey's Instagram slideshow shows her with Zuma and other “daughter-girls” from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. Zuma was part of the first graduating class after the school opened in 2007.

When it first opened, the academy received 3,500 applications from across the country, accepting a total of 152 girls. The boarding school, catering to girls in grades 8-12, aims to “raise future leaders who are able to navigate various social and cultural contexts, and who will remain committed to the development of South Africa, the African continent, and the entire globe,” according to the school’s website. Many graduates have gone on to prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Oxford, and, like Zuma, Spelman and Stanford.

In 2019, Winfrey spoke about her bond with the girls who attend and have attended the school.

“They’re the daughters I did not have,” Winfrey told People. “I never thought that mothering was something for me. I like babies, but I like them like, ‘Hi, baby, OK, now go over there.’ I like children when they can actually speak to me and tell me what the problem is. This is how having children was supposed to manifest for me.”

The girls also began to call her “Mom O,” a title she was initially hesitant to embrace.

“I did not want their mothers or legal guardians to think that I was stepping in and trying to take over the role their mom holds in their lives,” she said at the time. “I’m very much aware of who I am and what my role is for them.”

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