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April Start to Oprah School Trial

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January 16, 2008 12:43 PM EST | AP

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A judge on Wednesday set an April 21 trial date for a dormitory matron accused of abusing students at a school set up by Oprah Winfrey for disadvantaged girls.

Tiny Virginia Makopo, 27, faces charges of indecent assault, assault and criminal injury, allegedly committed against six students ages 13 to 15 and a 23-year-old fellow dormitory matron.

Makopo appeared in court with a towel over her head. She did not speak during her brief court appearance.

Police said there were at least three serious cases of indecent assault, and that the alleged abuse took place over four months at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, which opened last January.

Before the allegations, Winfrey said she told the pupils she was the "momma bear" who would protect them.

The 53-year-old talk-show host has spoken in the past of being raped by a distant cousin at 9 and then abused by three other men, trusted family friends. She has campaigned for laws in the United States to protect children from abusers.