The new, $1.6 million Seven Fountains Primary School "is an example of what schools in South Africa can become," says Winfrey

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated March 16, 2007 01:25 PM

Friday was a school day for Oprah Winfrey – with the talk-show host opening her second educational institution for South African kids.

The $1.6 million Seven Fountains Primary School – backed by Oprah’s Angel Network, which aids education and literacy projects – was conceived to be innovative, environmentally friendly and, Winfrey hopes, a model for public education. It is located outside the remote town of Kokstad, in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, the Associated Press reports.

“The Seven Fountains School is an example of what schools in South Africa can become,” Winfrey, dressed casually in a cream top and white pants, said at the formal dedication ceremony outside the remote town of Kokstad in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province. She also joined in the festivities by dancing and singing with teachers and students who cried out, “Long live Oprah, long live!”

Winfrey, 52, first brought gifts, clothing, books and teacher-training materials to the 1,000 students and staff of the school in 2002, when it was located on a farm. It was then moved to a new, under-equipped facility with no windows and little electricity and running water. In 2004, Winfrey visited again, and put the Angel Network to work building a new school.

“We thought the school you had before was not good enough, so we wanted to build the best school for you,” she told the children Friday.

The new facility, to be under the authority of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, has 25 classrooms, three multipurpose rooms, a library, computer center, landscaped playground and two sports fields, as well as a recycled water system, solar power and a garden that supplies vegetables for school meals.

“It can be done within the expectations of budgets. We used our imagination and creativity to build not only a good school but a great school,” said Winfrey, who also stressed, “We are here today to celebrate the transformative power of education.”

On student, 11-year-old Nduli Amahle, told the AP: “I want to thank Oprah for giving us this school. It is going to change my life and help me become a doctor.”

In January, Winfrey opened her $40 million Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg, for 152 she personally handpicked. Helping launch the school were celebrities like Tina Turner and Spike Lee, as well as former South Africa President Nelson Mandela.