Bongi Wenyika, a 2005 graduate of Oklahoma Wesleyan University’s Adult and Graduate Studies program, hasn’t had anything in life given to her.
Born in Zimbabwe, she’s had to fight from the very beginning—for identity, meaning, purpose, and even her name, which was entered incorrectly on her birth certificate as Sibongile when her actual name was Sibonginkosi. It’s this story, and this sense of hard-fought struggle, that make up the title of Wenyika’s new book: My Name is Not Sibongile: One Woman’s Fight for Identity.
Though Wenyika’s story is fascinating, her original plan wasn’t to write about her own life. She set out to write a book about parenting, the content of which would be informed by her experience raising a son on the autism spectrum. But after more thought and planning, she decided to tell her life’s story.
“As a parent sometimes, especially with women, we forget who we are and who God called us to be,” she said, noting that the purpose of the book became encouraging others to seek out this divine purpose. “I’m responsible for my family, but I’m also responsible for the call of God on my life.”
The book spans multiple decades and multiple continents, beginning with Wenyika’s early life in a strict, conservative family in Africa and telling her story of personal redemption and professional breakthrough—first as a journalist in her home country and later in the United States. An overwhelming theme of the book is a deep appreciation for education ; a huge part of the narrative concerns Wenyika and her husband moving to the States for continued schooling.
And it’s here that Wenyika’s story intersects with OKWU’s. She completed her degree in December of 2005, having attended classes at the Tulsa campus one night a week as part of the university’s new AGS program.
“I’m responsible for my family, but I’m also responsible for the call of God on my life.”
What made her choose OKWU’s adult learning options? Convenient scheduling, at first. “When I looked at the OKWU adult program, I knew when I was going to start, the chronology of classes, and when I was going to graduate,” she said. “For me, that was the perfect schedule.”
The community that came with being placed in a learning cohort was also pivotal. “It gave you an in-built support system,” Wenyika said. “Opportunities to be in the adult program at OKWU, meeting the people who I did, some who are still my friends, was invaluable.”
Ultimately, after making the decision to include some very personal stories in her book, Wenyika hopes that people will be able to relate to the raw emotion she conveyed. “I didn’t know that writing this book, I would have to be as vulnerable as I ended up being,” she said. “This is the right time and the right format for me to share.”
Her message is one of optimism, and she ultimately has one goal: that her readers will challenge themselves to discern the call of God on their lives and push themselves to their greatest potential.
“If I as an African woman who is also a wife, a mother of two—one of whom is special needs—can attend 3 of the best universities and get an education, surely they can do it too,” she said. “But the person who has to be first is God, because without Him none of this is possible.”
My Name is Not Sibongile: One Woman’s Fight for Identity is available for purchase on Amazon.
“I didn’t know that writing this book, I would have to be as vulnerable as I ended up being. This is the right time and the right format for me to share.”