Master’s student at Helm of International Student Network

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Master’s student at Helm of International Student Network

Master’s student at Helm of International Student Network

Andile Mthembu, a Master’s in Development Studies student at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU), has been entrusted with the mammoth task of leading the South Africa-Sweden University Forum (SASUF) Student Network for a one-year period, effective June 2022.

The appointment comes as a result of a recent unanimous vote by Student Network representatives, who have put their faith in Mthembu’s leadership qualities.

The Student Network is an extension of SASUF, a strategic international project that was formed in 2018 with the aim of bolstering relations between Sweden and South Africa in the areas of research, education and innovation. The forum consists of 38 universities from the two member countries. After receiving more funding in 2021 following the completion of the first three-year period, the project has entered a second phase (2022–2024). Central to the current stage is bringing together multiple stakeholders to devise joint solutions to the challenges posed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030.

Mthembu has been involved in SASUF since its inception. He was approached by one of the UNIZULU SASUF co-ordinators to contribute by conducting a study for his honours qualification. His participation led to him also creating and heading the UNIZULU SASUF student forum.

The Student Network was formed after the virtual SASUF Student Summit in 2020. During their discussions, student attendees from the various partner institutions identified a need for greater student involvement in the forum’s endeavours – a suggestion that was welcomed by the main SASUF body. The student network has one representative from each of the member states.

Mthembu is the second student to occupy the chairperson’s seat since the student body was developed. He was previously one of three deputy chairpersons. Delighted by the opportunity granted him, he is eager to showcase his leadership prowess.

“I am excited to be voted as chairperson because UNIZULU was the first university to involve students in its SASUF activities, and even start a student forum in the first phase. So, this (appointment) is like poetic justice. I am also excited because this is a great opportunity that will put UNIZULU on the map,” he said.

With previous experience in leading a student society and a student forum within his faculty, Mthembu is confident he will perform optimally. He is a firm believer in teamwork and empowerment, and intends to be guided by these fundamentals during his tenure. “I aim to have an inclusive structure. What I want is for (the four deputy chairpersons, two from each member state) to feel as if they are part of the board,” said Mthembu.

As the chairperson, Mthembu’s duties include overseeing all projects implemented by the various arms of the student network, ensuring that each project is well aligned with the SDGs, promoting collaboration by linking network members whose university-based projects have close similarities, and handling administrative tasks such as planning meetings. To further entrench the principle of partnership, there will be at least one project that links all students in partner institutions, Mthembu added. He will be responsible for the smooth implementation of this.

The news of Mthembu’s appointment was received with joy across the university. Professor Nontokozo Mashiya, Director of the International Linkages Office, said that the institution was excited and proud of Mthembu for flying the university flag high.

– Naledi Hlefane


Andile Mthembu is ecstatic about the opportunity to lead the SASUF Student Network. His main aim is to leave a lasting impression as a leader who mentored other leaders.


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