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A PHYSICALLYchallenged girl got the surprise of her life when her dream of attending class at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls was realised yesterday.
"I am very happy that I could spend at least one day at my dream school. I am going to brag to my friends at school," said Lerato Mukhithi.
The Reach for a Dream Foundation made Lerato's dream of spending a day at the school a reality. Lerato, 14, suffers from heart and lung illnesses. The foundation helps children with life-threatening illnesses to realise their dreams.
Her mother, Dorah Mukhithi, said Lerato was one of the best students at her Soweto school. But despite applying to Oprah's Academy last year, she was not accepted.
Mukhithi said due to her medical condition, Lerato sometimes only goes to school twice or thrice a week. At times she spends a month without going to school.
Lerato said one of her biggest wishes was "to be in control" of her movements, but unfortunately her complex medical condition has restricted her to a wheelchair. In addition to her heart and lung ailments, Lerato has developed complications in her spine, rib cage, hip and leg bones.
"She has to have doses of morphine every couple of hours to lull the pain. She also has to depend on a home oxygen kit as she tires very quickly," Mukhithi explained.
"The last wobbly steps she took on her own were when she was about nine years old," she said.
Lerato did not know that she would live her dream until she arrived at the academy's premises at Henley-on-Klip in Meyerton, south of Johannesburg.
She spent the day taking part in drama and dance classes with girls her age at the school.
Lerato said Oprah was her heroine, and that her favourite TV programme was the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Angie Pape of Reach for a Dream says they only help children with "life-threatening conditions" who are referred to them by hospitals, NGOs and private individuals.