The freshly ousted headmistress of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa has returned to Philly and is proclaiming that she never tried to cover up sex-abuse allegations at the school.
Yesterday, an attorney for Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane released a statement in which she said: "Contrary to reports, I had no knowledge of abuse. I did not and would never participate in any such cover up.
"As the head of academy, my track record had been of one who acted decisively and in the best interests of the child where there was even a hint of inappropriate speech or action on campus."
Winfrey complained during a Monday teleconference that administrators at the $40 million institution had not informed her of students' claims that they were being abused by a dorm matron. Winfrey, who was sexually abused as a child, was devastated by the reports and announced that Mzamane would not be returning.
Before becoming headmistress of Winfrey's 11-month-old school, Mzamane served as an administrator at Germantown Friends School. A native of South Africa, she succeeded Joan Countryman, also formerly of Germantown Friends, who served briefly as an interim headmistress of the academy.
In fact, it was Countryman who brought Mzamane to Winfrey's attention. Mzamane, who has a doctorate in educational administration from Cornell University, arrived in Philadelphia in 2000, according to the Inquirer. She was educated in Nigeria and in the United States.
"With two decades of experience across the African continent and in the United States working with children and schools, and drawing on the lessons of parenthood, I did everything I could to build an open school community where the child's voice was honored and where youthful frivolity lived side by side with an intense focus on academics," Mzamane's statement read.
"I have always been and will always be a passionate advocate for children and their families, and a South African patriot devoted to participating in the important work of nation-building through education."
Meanwhile, a former employee at Winfrey's school, Tiny Virginia Makopo, 27, is facing 13 charges of indecent assault, assault and criminal injury committed against at least a half-dozen students ages 13 to 15 and also against a 23-year-old. *