Oprah’s joy at doctor’s graduation

Oprah Winfrey with Dr. Bongeka Zuma who is an alumni in her Academy. Picture: Facebook

Oprah Winfrey with Dr. Bongeka Zuma who is an alumni in her Academy. Picture: Facebook

Published Jun 24, 2024


Durban — It is an opportunity many young girls dream about and when they are given the chance, they do whatever it takes to succeed.

That has been the case with Bongeka Zuma, a young woman from Bulwer in KZN, who was accepted to study at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy when it opened in Gauteng in 2007.

Last week Zuma graduated as a medical doctor from the prestigious Stanford University in California and had Oprah Winfrey cheering her on as she walked across the stage.

The American media mogul was so proud that she took to social media to celebrate Zuma’s achievement.

Winfrey wrote that she had been to 22 graduations of her daughter-girls, but this one was special.

“One of the great joys of my life was to see her walk across that stage. Knowing where she’s coming from, and how strongly she believed in becoming a doctor,” Winfrey said.

“She never gave up, and with a support team of good friends, fellow OWLAG (Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls) sisters and professors, we all celebrated her achievement with great pride. Congratulations, Dr Zuma. Well done!” wrote Oprah.

Dr Bongeka Zuma. | Supplied

Back home, Zuma’s own family is just as proud of her.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, her mother, Nokubonga Zuma, said she was their pride and joy.

Nokubonga said her daughter’s life changed for the better when she started Grade 8 at the academy.

“Bongeka has always been smart and her teachers at Blessed Launda Primary School said she should be taken to a better school but we had nothing and could not afford to,” said Nokubonga.

She said that her daughter had passed all the interviews and was accepted at the academy and that they let her go although they were worried about how she would cope being away from her family.

“We took our first flight to Gauteng going with her to her new school. It was exciting, yet frightening,” she said.

Nokubonga said from then on Bongeka had been going places.

“Sometimes I pinch myself when I think that my only girl is now a doctor. I gave birth to a doctor,” she said.

Nokubonga said that although Bongeka left home at a young age, they still maintained a close bond and spoke to each other regularly.

She said while she misses her daughter, she understood that she had to leave home to have a better future. She was looking forward to visiting Bongeka overseas.

She said: “I was so happy that Oprah Winfrey was able to attend Bongeka’s graduation. I don’t know how I can thank ma Oprah.”

Dr Bongeka Zuma. | Supplied

After Bongeka completed her studies, she graduated summa cum laude from Spelman College in the US and then received her Master’s from Oxford University.

Bongeka’s brother Thobani Zuma said he was proud of his little sister’s success and how humble she has remained even though she has achieved a lot.

“She has not forgotten about us as her family. She makes extra effort to connect with us, we talk frequently and we know how much she loves us,” he said.

Thobani said they were grateful to her primary school teachers who saw the potential in her and suggested that she go to the academy.

Asked if Bongeka would be returning home soon, he laughed.

“Sadly she has already found a job in the States. So I guess we will just continue to visit her.”

Sunday Tribune