10/29/2007 AT 09:55 AM EDT
She only wanted to give underprivileged African girls a chance at a better life. But a tearful Oprah Winfrey
begged for forgiveness from students' parents at her all-girls academy, currently reeling from allegations of abuse.
"I've disappointed you. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," the talk-show queen told families in an emergency meeting last week at the South African school in Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg, the South African news site News24.com
Oprah had canceled all appointments and flew to South Africa twice in the past month after allegations of abuse.
Winfrey, who has spoken openly about being abused as a child, gave the girls her personal telephone number, her e-mail address and her mailing address so that they could contact her around the clock, according to local media.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy opened in January
to provide quality education to underprivileged girls.
Surrounded by high-profile guests including Nelson Mandela, Oprah described the day the $46 million school opened as "the proudest, greatest day of my life and a dream come true."