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Statement from Oprah Winfrey

The reason I wanted to build a school for girls is because I know that when you educate a girl you begin to change the face of a nation. Girls become women and they educate their girls and their boys. Girls who are educated are less likely to get diseases like HIV and AIDS—a pandemic in South Africa. I believe that we have to begin to change the pandemic through education.

Around the world, there are millions of girls in developing countries who will not have an education or even get to secondary school. What I wanted to do is give an opportunity to girls who were like me—girls who were poor, who had come from disadvantaged circumstances, but girls who had a light so bright that not even poverty, disease, and life circumstances could dim that light.

I believe that this school is going to change the trajectory of their lives. All these girls realize that the fact they were chosen for this school is a miracle. The expectation for each girl who comes to this school is that you build your life here. I promised every single girl that comes to this school that she would be able to graduate and go to the university of her choice in the world. I'm going to make sure that happens.

This school is a symbol of leadership for all of Africa. From the very beginning of designing this school, I wanted this to be an environment where the girls could be consistently inspired. I wanted these girls to have the best – the best campus, the best curriculum and, of course, the best opportunities. It’s not just about academic learning; it's about social, emotional, and spiritual learning. This school represents a symbol for what is possible for African girls. I believe that if you're surrounded by beautiful things, if you're surrounded by wonderful teachers who are there to inspire you, if you're surrounded by beauty, it brings out the beauty in you. And so, when girls and boys all over Africa hear about this school and see our girls, our daughters, I think it would inspire them.

This Academy is the first—this is our pilot, our satellite, our base. I wanted it to be in South Africa because of my African roots and my love and respect for Nelson Mandela. My vision is to make this the best school in the world, not just the best African school. We're starting with the basic African curriculum and intend to expand that program. My vision is that these girls become citizens of the world and that we open up the world to these girls in a way that could not have been imaginable to them. The school is based in South Africa, but these girls are students of the globe.

This is the first of many schools to come—for girls and for boys—on the African continent and beyond. We want to use this school as a model for other schools and as a launching pad for influencing education around the world. This is just the beginning.