#UPGraduation2022: Meet Bolanle Enang, a shining star nurtured by a single father, the church and UP

Posted on April 26, 2022

Bolanle Enang graduated with a master’s degree in theology with distinction from the University of Pretoria (UP) on Thursday, 21 April 2022, exactly 13 years since she arrived in South Africa from Nigeria.

Many things contributed to this achievement, including the role that the church played in her life when her parents separated. Enang was four years old and was brought up by her father, along with her four siblings, all under the age of 10.

“I have always been fascinated by how the church helped us,” she says. “The church was part of our growth and development. When my mom left, the church played a great role in educating us. Because of that, I do what I do.

“I'm studying to make it formal, to keep learning more so I can keep on impacting other people to see the importance of children and youth ministry in our society. It’s not just for the church; it’s for the world.”

While the church has always been part of Enang’s life, theology was not her initial field of study. She first studied real estate, acquiring a national diploma and then a degree in what is known in Nigeria as “estate management”, before working for a real estate business development think tank in Lagos.

On the side, she ran small Bible groups for children. When she and her future husband moved to South Africa, this interest in educating children became her main focus. After a few teaching positions, she headed the Children’s Ministry at St Stephen’s Anglican Church in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, from 2010. But it was Professor Malan Nel’s 18-month course, an Advanced Certificate in Youth and Children’s Ministry at his Centre for Contextual Ministry at UP, that Enang says “changed my life”.

Bolanle Enang who graduated with a master's from UP's Faculty of Theology stands in a church in her graduation cap and gown.

With her master’s in hand, Bolanle Enang plans to start her PhD in theology, which is about developing a pastoral family coaching model for changing family dynamics, in 2023.

“My idea had always been ‘kids go to Sunday school and adults go to big church’. I never thought that it could be intergenerational. Prof Malan [she calls him by his first name] opened my eyes to family ministry, to children not being raised in isolation. That changed more than my orientation ­– I started doing ministry differently.”

And it ultimately led to the subject of her master’s dissertation: “A home-centred approach to children’s faith formation in a South African context”. The concept was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic when churches were locked and the home became the church. This echoed Prof Nel’s teachings that the home is the first mission field. Enang began to shift her thinking “of society, of parents, of the church, to make faith formation not a church-based activity but one at home”.

“My thinking was around family studies,” she says. “How do you equip a mom or dad or gogo [granny] or a malume [uncle], whomever, to be able to teach their kids the Bible or scriptures of faith formation?

“When you teach your child to read the Bible or you discuss it, you are opening their intellectual capacity; you are helping with their language development; you are helping with critical thinking. How the church and the home come together to help a child form their faith, have values or spirituality, and experience God ­­­– that’s my thesis.”

Other than Prof Nel and her husband, Daniel, a mathematics and science educator, she credits a series of women at UP with supporting her.

“Who says women do not help women? These women shattered every weird barrier and lifted me throughout my studies.”

They are Cathy Sandis, Head of Student Administration at the Faculty of Theology and Religion, who helped Enang to create a five-year study plan that she is still sticking to; Christine Nel, Information Specialist at the Merensky 2 Library, for being “a dream” and helping her access materials, especially during lockdown; and Prof Yolanda Dreyer, Head of the Department of Practical Theology, her supervisor for her honours, master’s and, alongside Prof Nel, her forthcoming doctorate.

Enang is also grateful to Dr Judith T Ojo-Aromokudu, a Sunday school teacher at St Stephen’s who, despite her doctorate being in the field of architecture, helped Enang to shape her ideas and strengthen her academic arguments.

She should also credit her own tenacity for her accomplishment. It saw her complete her master’s in one year – despite her full-time position as Head of Children, Youth and Young Adults at St Stephen’s Church; being the chief facilitator at Capacity Growth Consult, a company she founded in 2016 that trains Sunday school teachers countrywide; and being mother to Edidiong (9) and Inemesit (7). Enang was so determined to achieve, she sometimes went to sleep at 8pm and woke up at 12.30am to work until it was time for her day job.

She refers to herself as a “university child”. Her late father was the registrar at the University of Lagos and she was born, raised and schooled on the campus from nursery school through to high school. “So I don’t want to just do this – I want to finish it all,” she says of academic life.

Enang has earmarked 2023 for the start of her PhD in theology, which is about developing a pastoral family coaching model for changing family dynamics.  

Read more #UPGraduation2022 stories

Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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