Zinhle Mhlongo Obtains Master’s Degree with Distinction

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Zinhle Mhlongo Obtains Master’s Degree with Distinction

Zinhle Mhlongo Obtains Master’s Degree with Distinction

“I had to work hard and whenever I felt like giving up, I would silence the noise that comes from the outside, focus on what I want and where I want to be. Failure was not and still is not an option for me. I still have a long road ahead and there will be challenges but giving is still not an option.”

These were the words of Zinhle Mhlongo, a Master of Tourism degree graduate, as she reminisced on her journey towards obtaining her qualification at the University of Zululand (UNIZULU).

Mhlongo hails from eShowe, Northern KwaZulu-Natal. She was raised by her grandmother after the demise of her parents when she was in primary school. Her beloved grandmother also passed away years later.  She was introduced to tourism by her high school principal and instantaneously, her passion for the industry was sparked. Upon completing her Bachelor of Tourism Studies degree at UNIZULU, she realised her love for education and tourism aligned perfectly, thereby furthering her studies to improve her knowledge and skills.

Growing up an orphan without siblings, navigating life was a constant struggle for Mhlongo. Often, she felt lonely despite being surrounded by her loving grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. Much like her numerous youth counterparts, she had to overcome emotional, mental and financial difficulties throughout her life. She embarked on her master’s journey in 2022 without prospects of securing funding. A vote of confidence and a simple act of kindness from her principal supervisor, Professor Ikechukwu Ezeuduji, would later alter the course of life. Recognising Mhlongo’s researching prowess, Prof C was moved to help settle her tuition fees.

“For the first time, someone saw potential in me and invested in it. I could not believe it!” reflected Mhlongo. She added that having a supervisor “who sees you as a human being rather than a statistic” was a true blessing.  

Prof Ezeuduji received great returns on his investment as his student graduated with a distinction on Thursday, 9 May 2024 during the third graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Mhlongo was astonished by her impressive attainment considering that she once took a short hiatus to recharge due to having felt overwhelmed by her research. She attributed her overall success to having a strong support system which included her supervisor, whose name she cannot omit whenever she speaks about her postgraduate journey, co-supervisor Dr Sibusiso Ntshangase, fellow postgraduate students in the Recreation and Tourism Department, and her loved ones. Her adaptability, dedication and resilience also propelled her forward.

Her research, titled “Entrepreneurial education and intention within the tourism industry: Youths in King Cetshwayo District Municipality”, examined the influence of entrepreneurial education on youths’ entrepreneurial intention. Considering the high unemployment rate in the country, I chose the topic based on my interest in the youth, education and the potential of the tourism industry to create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for youths in the study area.

The study findings show that entrepreneurial education has a positive impact on youths’ entrepreneurial intention. Therefore, entrepreneurial education acquired by youth can have a positive impact on their entrepreneurial intention in starting tourism businesses. The study contributes to the existing theoretical knowledge on entrepreneurship and tourism-related entrepreneurship. Furthermore, it indicates the significance of business incubation (training and support) aimed at assisting the youth to kick-start successful business initiatives and how these may become more empirically underscored. This study was able to present an updated method for this process.

Being the first person in her family to have a postgraduate degree, this has inspired Mhlongo’s younger family members to also further their studies.

  • Naledi Hlefane