Life at the Academy is not only about academics. Afternoons and weekends are also extremely busy for the girls as they get involved in a number of sporting, social, creative, debating and leadership activities.
Two critical teams in the lives of the girls outside of the classroom are the Residence Life Team and the Wellness Team. These teams work in collaboration with the teachers to facilitate the girls’ growth into thoughtful, responsible and resilient young women leaders.
The Academy provides a welcoming, value-based residence where students develop holistically. The residence staff fulfills the crucial function of creating homely living environments for the students. In addition, they assist the girls to overcome homesickness, help them adjust to life at the Academy, care for them, help them learn to manage themselves and ultimately prepare them for life beyond the Academy.
Students are equipped with the necessary skills to live among a diverse group of people, and are encouraged to live both harmoniously and independently. Activities in the residence are geared towards providing entertainment and relaxation, as well as personal growth and leadership.
The integration of different grades in one residence has encouraged tremendous sisterhood across grades. The students take part in different social activities that encourage the sense of community, identity, bonding and sisterhood. All residences have a council of students, who work with residence staff to plan social activities, build camaraderie and resolve any issues that may arise.
The after-school co-curricular programme focuses on creativity and opportunities for development in different disciplines including leadership, sport and the arts. By offering a wide range of classes and workshops in the creative realm, we allow students to continue their learning outside the confines of the classroom.
We nurture the development of strong athletes and leaders through participation, sportsmanship and discipline. As a complement to the academic curriculum, the sports programme increases students’ physical and emotional fitness, creating young women who believe in themselves both inside and outside of the classroom.
The Sports programme offers students a variety of winter and summer sporting codes, all taught by a team of highly qualified coaches. Students can participate at all levels in each sporting code, ranging from leisure/novice to competitive leagues.
All students are expected to take part in physical activity. Grades 8, 9 and 10 students must select at least one team sport and commit to 3 hours of compulsory physical activity per week. Grade 11 students are encouraged to participate in team sports and must commit to 3 hours of compulsory physical activity per week and Grade 12 students sign up for physical activities at their own discretion, but are encouraged to participate on a weekly basis.
|Summer Sports (Term 1 & 4)||Winter Sports (Term 2 & 3)||Other physical activities (All year round)|
|Swimming||Soccer||Run for your Life|
We promote healthy competition through the House structure. Each student is assigned a house. Every term, or sometimes more frequently, sporting events are held and the competition is organised by the Sports Committee.
There are four houses represented by African animals and colours:
Arts and Culture
Artistic expression is common to all cultures, as all human beings make statements through various non-verbal forms of expression and create objects that are beautiful or have meaning. The arts promote international understanding as they allow us to move beyond the barriers of language and to explore other cultures and civilizations through their artistic production.
At OWLAG, students are exposed to the art forms and values of other cultures as well as their own. They are also encouraged to identify their particular creative abilities and to master techniques appropriate to that form of expression.
Our Arts programme comprises two groups:
- Visual Arts
- Performing arts (Music, Drama & Dance)
The importance of Visual Arts as part of a holistic education is recognised at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. It is an established fact that girls who study Visual Arts benefit by developing creative thinking habits that can be applied in many other spheres, and also can derive pleasure and satisfaction from creating artworks. Many important skills such as self-discipline, time management and different ways of communication are also developed.
The different disciplines presented at OWLAG include Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking. An important part of the day-to-day logistics of the Visual Arts studio include recycling art equipment and being aware of safety procedures. The premise of “waste not, want not” is implemented and environmental awareness is inculcated in each grade.
The use of digital equipment is promoted and many tasks are set to minimise paper wastage. Although the internet is a powerful tool, the students are not allowed to copy images straight from websites but may source imagery that pertains to their specific area of inquiry.
As Visual Arts depends on perception and observation, annual exhibitions of the students’ work is obligatory.
Music is regarded as fundamental to the life of the Academy, where it serves as a vehicle for enhancing social, cultural and academic life.
An extensive music programme, including individual coaching, is offered to the students. It is compulsory for Grade 8 students to take part in the music programme, while it is voluntary for all other grades.
The music programme offers tuition in a wide variety of musical instruments. These include violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano, guitar, saxophone, clarinet, oboe, flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, horn, drum kit and voice. Girls are also encouraged to participate in ensemble playing and singing by joining the string ensemble, wind band, marimba band or the choir.
Dramatic Arts & Musical Performance
Students have the opportunity to audition for and perform in various theatre productions throughout the year as part of the co-curricular Arts program. The annual musical production is a highlight of the school’s calendar year and gives aspiring actresses the chance to dance, sing and act.
Complementing this is the drama production, which aims to explore and expose the students to different theatrical styles. Another exciting aspect of the programme is when the Senior Dramatic Arts students direct the yearly House Play Festival, which allows for creative collaboration between students from all grades. Enhancing these activities are termly theatre visits, which offer students the opportunity to broaden their understanding and appreciation of the theatre.
Unlike other programmes, our Dance co-curricular programme is a focused course – with partnerships to the South African Dance Teachers Association (SADTA) and the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD).
Once a year, the students have an opportunity to audition for the OWLAG Dance Company. This involves a strict dance regime every week in preparation for dance productions and competitions performed on campus as well as other well-known South African theatres. The programme was founded by Ms Dwana A Smallwood, and now under the direction of Ms Lucia Cunningham. The students in the programme receive the knowledge, skills, and techniques needed to establish themselves as dancers, as well as the opportunity to train with some of the best and most connected teachers and choreographers in South Africa and the overseas community.
The Academy subscribes to the philosophy of Servant Leadership, as modelled by Nelson Mandela who inspired our founder, Ms Oprah Winfrey, to establish the school. The entire school community, the Board, students, teachers, support staff and supporters of the Academy are involved in some aspect of service to the community. The adults serve as role models to the students in their commitment to supporting the entire process.
All students have the opportunity to participate in service projects at a local, national or international level. A minimum of 10 hours of formal community service is performed per student per year. The average number of hours per student per year ranges between 60 and 75. Those who sign up for the President’s Award, Bronze, Silver or Gold levels are expected to fulfill specific service obligations of that programme.
As an authorized school for the Middle Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate, community service is a component of the curriculum offered. The Life Orientation curriculum of the Independent Examination Board (IEB) followed by students in Grade 11 and 12 also has a significant community service component.
Student Representative Council
The SRC supports the creation of a new generation of women leaders, who will positively transform the world. It strives to ensure that we cultivate all spheres that make up an OWLAG student: the social, psychological, physical and spiritual well-being. We believe that when this is balanced, students will thrive academically. This will ensure that OWLAG girls are successful in all their endeavours and pursuits, within the OWLAG community and beyond.
The SRC provides a platform for students to have a voice, and actively participate in making OWLAG a nurturing environment. It endeavours to create effective communication between the students and the staff. By utilising the various committees that constitute the SRC, we also aim to create innovative ways of ensuring that our vision is brought to life.
Each year the outgoing SRC hands over the ‘flame of leadership’ to the newly elected SRC. During this ceremony the new SRC members commit themselves to the values and principles of the Academy, after which they receive the flame of leadership.
The flame of the candle is symbolic of two important aspects of leadership: firstly, just as the flame brings light and warmth, the members of the SRC commit themselves to service leadership that always puts the needs of the OWLAG community first. Secondly, they commit themselves to the responsibility that comes from serving their community.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is a global member of the Round Square Organisation. Round Square is a world-wide association of more than one hundred and fifty schools spread across five continents. Students attending Round Square schools make a strong commitment, beyond academic excellence, to personal development and responsibility.
Round Square promotes six IDEALS of learning: Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service. These are incorporated into the curriculum throughout all member schools.
Exchanges among students and teachers are afforded within the network. In the past 4 years, OWLAG has hosted incoming international exchange students from Australia, India and France. We have extended our network in 2016 by hosting a student from Peru and we are looking forward to hosting our first student from the Middle-East, later this year.
As a school, the exchange programme has afforded our OWLAG students the opportunity to learn about a new country, culture and language, while at the same time making new friends and planning future international travel.
Model United Nations
Model United Nations debating conferences are based on the principles and format of a UN General Assembly debate, with a focus on the United Nations, global issues, international relations and human rights issues.
The format of the competition is a twinning of resourced and under-resourced schools to form a combined team. Each team consists of two students from a resourced school and two from an under-resourced school, as well as a teacher from each school. This twinning model addresses inequalities in the education environment and fosters social cohesion.
The intention of the event is to simulate the actual United Nations; so participating teams are allocated a country to represent at the conference. Delegates attempt to resolve a current global issue through diplomacy, negotiation, debate, persuasion and arguments with fellow delegates while at all times representing their assigned country as realistically and accurately as possible.
To prepare for the competition, participants ought to know about their country’s policies, alliances, their involvement in global institutions, and their country’s stance towards the topic at hand. Ideally, participants should also know as much as possible about other delegations as in this debating format, knowledge certainly is power.
Provincial Model United Nations Competition – Gauteng Legislature After much research and long hours of preparation, Mohau Matinketsa and Mpolise Kanase, together with their partners fron general Smuts, represented the country ALGERIA at the Gauteng Provincial Model United Nations Competition on Saturday, 29 August. The topic was the issue of international migration, which had been dominating international news. The standard of debating was high as the participants from over 30 schools passionately their country’s position and tried to persuade others to agree on the way forward.
Mini Model Unired Nations Conference – Midrand High School On 21 August, OWLAG Model UN delegates gathered to represent their respective countries, namely Kenya, United Kingdom and South Korea, at the MUN that took place at Midrand High School. The topic was Food Security and the countries were expected to collaborate in order to devise ways in which food scarcity could be curbed, sustainability of resources could be implemented and more nutritious food could be made available.
South Korea, represented by Vuyo Hlwatika, Anitah Ndlovu and Sinqobile Mbambo for OWLAG, took 2nd place for Best Delegation. Fragments from all the resolutions drafted by delegations from OWLAG made it onto the final working resolution, which passed at the end of the conference.
OWLAG is a member of the President’s Award Programme, an empowerment and self-development programme that empowers young people, by providing a balanced, non-competitive framework for self-development, to increase their self-esteem and enhance their capacity to achieve in whatever context they find themselves; enabling them to become responsible, active citizens within their communities.
The visit by His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, the Duke of Wessex, was one of the many highlights of this term. The Academy hosted the President's Award, Duke of Edinburgh Awards 60th Anniversary Celebration. Also present on the day was Mr Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Youth Development and Administration. The President's Award for Youth Empowerment was founded by HRH, The Duke of Edinburgh in 1956.
The Programme was introduced in South Africa in 1983 under the banner of the Gold Shield Award, with Dr Ian Player as the first Chairman, and in 1994 it was re-launched as The President's Award for Youth Empowerment, with Mr Nelson Mandela as the first Patron-in-Chief.
More than 16 000 young people in South Africa participate in the Award annually.
The Orientation Programme is an action-packed week that takes place in January of each year, before the start of the academic programme, during which new students are introduced to the culture and ethos of the Academy. It is designed to assist incoming students with their transition to life at the Academy.
New girls get settled into their residences under the care of the residence mothers, they start to understand the expectations on them as OWLAG girls, they are also able to engage with their ‘OWLAG sisters’ at a number of fun events that culminate in a special dinner hosted by the Student Representative Council, and a 'Sisters Picnic’ on the Sunday afternoon prior the start of the academic week.
All in all, the new girls are challenged and supported, cry tears of homesickness but also laugh and play with their new sisters as they start their exciting journeys as OWLAG girls!
Founder’s Day is celebrated on 29 January, Ms Winfrey’s birthday and the start of the academic year.
The Blazer Ceremony takes place on Founder’s Day; this is a ceremony during which the new students formally receive their blazers from their ‘sisters’ and make a pledge to uphold the values of the Academy. The ceremony is an emotional one for the girls as it symbolises their acceptance into the OWLAG community.
The Tree of Life Ceremony
This ceremony follows the Blazer ceremony and represents the coming together of individuals from different parts of South Africa with a diverse range of backgrounds in order to form the OWLAG family and community. The entire community, including the 'old girls', forms a guard of honour as the new girls are led down the Street of Living to the Tree of Life. This is an olive tree planted by Ms. Winfrey in December 2006 to represent unity, peace and achievement. As the name of each new student is called, she gets invited to place a pebble with her name on it, under the Tree of Life to mark her inclusion into the OWLAG community.
New Parents Day
New Parents’ Day is a highlight for the new girls and their families and, for many parents and guardians, it is their first visit to the Academy. On this day new families are orientated to the values and ethos of the Academy, have an opportunity to see the campus, meet the Head and staff, be informed of the expectations we have of them and their daughters, hear about the history and development of the school, and be introduced to the way of life their child will be exposed to over the next five years.
The OWLAG valediction ceremony recognises and celebrates the Matric students’ achievements, as they prepare to leave the Academy and pursue tertiary study. Every year, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Award is awarded to the girl who best exemplifies leadership, caring and generosity of spirit to her fellow sisters, school and community.
At the 2015 Valediction Ceremony held on Saturday 28 November, Ms Winfrey spoke powerfully to the matriculating class of 2015 - The Captains. Her message focused on overcoming circumstances and drawing on the strength and resilience each girl has developed to get them to this moment of graduation.
Quoting from the William Henley poem, Invictus, Ms Winfrey encouraged the class of 2015 to be ‘Master of my fate’ and ‘Captain of my soul’. Ms Winfrey’s powerful address will be held in the hearts and minds of the 2015 graduating class as they leave the Academy for their tertiary studies.
The recipient of the 2015 Oprah Winfrey Leadership Award was Elizabeth Moipone Tsoane.
In addition to the graduating certificates and awards given to the top-performing student in each subject, the 2015 award for Overall Top Student, based on the Subject-based Assessment, was awarded to Amanda Menzele.
The OWLAG Matric class of 2015 pioneered a new tradition, which has been carried forward by this year’s Matrics.
Rather than following the norm of worrying about finding the ‘perfect date’ and getting dressed up like princesses for a matric dance at the Wanderers Club, they decided to do something far more memorable and meaningful. Their version of a matric dance is spending the entire weekend in the North West Province, or more specifically, Sun City to celebrate their coming of age - their final year of school.
On Friday 11 March, the res moms gave the Matric Class of 2016 a special breakfast and each girl was handed a rose as she got onto the bus to Sun City. The girls spent the first part of the weekend exploring Sun City and enjoying all that the resort has to offer. On Saturday evening, the beautiful OWLAG Class of 2016 dressed up in their matric dance finery and arrived at the ‘Palace of the Lost City’ for a formal dinner. After dinner, the girls enjoyed an evening at the Crocodile Lounge where they danced the night away.
The girls loved the freedom of ‘doing it for themselves’ and not having to worry about finding a date. They looked beautiful and they radiated confidence. This was their moment to shine and to celebrate this milestone in their school careers.
The OWLAG Matric class of 2015 pioneered a new tradition, which has been carried forward by this year’s Matrics.
An annual tradition in the United States, Thanksgiving is traditionally a celebration of the blessings of the year, including the harvest. The modern day celebration of Thanksgiving centres around sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends.
In honour of our Founder, OWLAG celebrates Thanksgiving by coming together to acknowledge and give thanks to our founder, Ms Winfrey, for the opportunities we’ve received.
The Wellness Team is a very strong multi-disciplinary team consisting of nurses, psychologists and social workers. The team adopts a holistic approach to the care of the students, paying attention to their physical, emotional, relational and social wellbeing.
Although each team fulfills specific functions, their shared vision is to care for the students, assist them in overcoming challenges, and facilitate their growth as individuals and as leaders.
The medical team is made up of 3 professional nurses and a medical doctor who consults to the school. The main focus of the medical team is on prevention of disease, early intervention and the promotion of positive and informed decision-making. In this way we work to ensure a healthy and safe learning environment and contribute to the growth of our girls into healthy, empowered and responsible young women. The medical centre provides primary health care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The doctor visits the academy once a week to provide secondary medical care and is on call in the event of emergencies.
The 3 registered psychologists are involved in caring for the students while they are at OWLAG. The team’s goal is to facilitate the girls’ development and ensure that they are growing into resilient, well-adjusted young women and future leaders. A range of formal and informal interventions and activities are used to assist the students while is at OWLAG. These services include:
such as counselling or therapy on an individual and group level to assist with psychological, social or emotional difficulties.
to address specific learning challenges such as organisational skills, managing school-related stress and anxiety, and test and exam preparation. In a lot of cases learning support is offered as a way to expand the students’ academic abilities so that they can reach their full potential.
which include assessments and screenings for emotional difficulties, learning difficulties, concession applications, subject choice, and career guidance. The team also makes referrals onto other professionals and specialists, as necessary.
during which psychological assessments and clinical interviews are conducted with each student at the final round of the admissions process. Results from these assessments and interviews assist in creating an individual development plan for each student on their arrival at OWLAG.
Training and Workshops
on topics such as time management, study skills and anti-bullying.
The 3 social workers provide a range of services to students and their families or caregivers. The team conducts home visits to develop an understanding of the student’s home context, relationship network and family support. They identify areas of difficulty and develop an intervention plan with the student and family to address problems. They also reinforce and support existing strengths within the family system.
When families need assistance, they refer them to resources in the community (e.g. NGO’s, support centres, etc); and in cases of extreme poverty, neglect or abuse, families are referred to the Department of Social Development for assessment and/or intervention e.g. SASSA
They also facilitate support groups such as bereavement, displacement support and life skills groups; and provide input to students and staff on relevant topics (e.g. child protection, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, etc.). They conduct follow-up home visits and/or maintain telephonic contact with families to ensure that interventions are ‘working’ as well as to deepen links between the school and the girls’ families. Another key role of this team is to assist families of students to start and develop sustainable projects that will be income-generating or relieve some of the burden of poverty (e.g. gardening and beading projects). They identify resources in the various communities and build collaborative relationships with other organisations to assist families of the girls.
From the start, Oprah Winfrey knew that university study was essential to the students achieving their professional and personal goals, contributing to society and establishing financial independence.
The process of university guidance starts as early as Grade 9, where students are guided on subject choice linked to university requirements. Students undergo a number of assessments to ensure that their choice is linked to their individual strengths and personality types.
Grade 11 and 12 students are exposed to a series of university talks explaining the importance of the final exams, entry requirements, APS scores, scholarship opportunities and NSFAS applications. In October of each year all Grade 11 students write a number assessments including aptitude, personality, occupational interest and career development in order to assist them with their career decisions.
For Grade 12 students the Academy hosts an Annual Careers Day, where delegates from various universities, colleges, businesses, hotel schools, nursing, financial institutions, accounting firms and other career opportunities are invited to spend the afternoon engaging with the students. At the beginning of their Grade 12 year, the Director of University Guidance works closely with each student ensuring that they are applying for appropriate degrees or diplomas; submitting applications on time and ensuring scholarship and financial aid documents are completed. The aim is to match students’ strengths and passions to something they will enjoy studying at University. The students are encouraged to apply to more than one university and to have back-up options to their first choice.
In November the Grade 12 students attend the final University Workshop where they are given a complete folder on all aspects of university including budgeting, travel plans, registration, wellness at university and many other relevant items related to the transition from school to university. They have an opportunity to meet their mentors who will mentor and guide them through their university years.
The National Benchmark Test is written in June/July as this is a requirement by most South African universities. In general the application process is completed by the end of July and students receive their provisional offers by August.