Oprah’s school for girls in South Africa has seen its share of problems, but this one may be the most tragic yet.  Johannesburg police are currently investigating whether or not to file charges after a dead newborn was found on the grounds of the Oprah Winfrey Academy on Friday night.

This morning the school put out a statement saying it was complying with police investigation and providing counseling for the girls in the wake of the tragic discovery.  The newborn belonged to a pregnant teen who attended the academy.  Though it is confirmed that she did give birth to the child Wednesday at the academy, it remains unclear what happened afterwards.

According to Sowetan Live:

It is alleged that the pupil gave birth in the school and hid her dead baby in her school bag.  Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the girl was hospitalised after one of the employees at the school noticed that she was “bleeding excessively”

“After a thorough check-up it was confirmed that the pupil had given birth,” Dlamini said.  Sowetan has learnt that at first the pupil denied that she had given birth. But after interrogation by the police she confessed. It is also alleged that she told nurses that she did not know what had happened to her baby.  The girl allegedly fell pregnant after she slept with her boyfriend while away at home during the Fifa 2010 World Cup.

With the details still forthcoming, there is no way to make a clear call on what actually happened.  From initial reports, the baby’s mother has been cast in a questionable light, but we should remember not to make this tragedy into an opportunity for baseless assumptions.

Teen pregnancy has long been an issue in South Africa.  In 2007, the United Nations estimated that one in three girls in South Africa became pregnant before the age of 20.  Though the rates have dropped since then, some analysts attributed much of the decline to terminated pregnancies.  While the government has increased spending on HIV/AIDS and birth control awareness, the issue continues to be one of the country’s most pressing gender issues.  Not only are the young mother’s faced with social stigma and discrimination, a report from South Africa’s Parlimentary Monitory Group found that the teen mothers were more prone to drop out of school, lack the education needed for economic stability and then pass the cycle on to their own children, as their children were less likely to complete secondary school as well.

This tragedy is the latest controversy facing Oprah’s academy.  In 2007, a supervisor was charged with fondling students and sexually assaulting them.  She was put on probation after spending five days in jail and was cleared of charges last October.

With their embattled past, this moment surely does not bode well for Oprah, her academy and most importantly the girls who attend it.  It remains to be seen, what all of this will mean for its future.

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