Meet the first female South African to obtain a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Venda


GIYANI– `Dr. Daphney Mathebula, 37, the first woman to obtain a doctorate in Mathematics at the University of Venda, is involved in outreach activities that aim to contribute to the uplifting of young girls to pursue careers in Science.
She inspires young girls from rural areas around the area to study Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

In September 2018, Daphney made history by becoming the first female South African to get a Ph.D. in Maths at the institution since its founding in 1982. Her experience of failing Mathematics while doing Grade 12 in 2000, did not damper her dream of making a career in Mathematics.

“I had to repeat as I had passed with a not convincing mark of GG and then I passed all my subjects. That is because of determination and perseverance that helped me in achieving what I needed,” said Daphney

Born in Giyani, Muyexe village, the Mathematics lecture said that after she passed matric, she enrolled for a BSc degree in Computer Science and Mathematics at the university.” said Daphney

“I did not perform well and was forced to change the course to BSc. in Mathematics and Statistics. That took me five years to complete a three-year degree and I never allowed that to let me down. I took the challenge as a motivation and I worked harder and eventually obtained my honours with support from my Professor Winston Garira and Dr. Simiso Moyo. It was in 2009 when I obtained my BSc Honours,” Daphney said.

“I recall that while I was doing my honours degree, I got an opportunity to attend a workshop at the African Institute of Mathematical Science in Cape Town, where applications of Maths in real life, Biomathematics, were introduced. I was then awarded a National Research Foundation (NRF) bursary to pursue a second honours degree and an MSc degree from the University of Stellenbosch.”

Daphney said her research interest was in the Mathematical modelling of infectious diseases such as Malaria, Schistosomiasis, and Influenza. In 2012 her Ph.D. research paper was published in Mathematical Bioscience Journal, a Peer Review Magazine,

“It was rated number three among the 25 hottest articles in the whole world in 2014 and that was when I started lecturing at Univen. Two more articles are still under preparation,” said Daphney.

In 2017, Daphney had an opportunity to present at the Sixth International Conference on Infectious Diseases Dynamics held in Spain. She encouraged parents to support their children in whatever ventures they wanted.

“My parents Daniel and Dainah trained me and made the environment conducive for my education and I thank them for all their financial support in the past and now,” said Doctor Mathebula.

“My advice to young people out there, know who you are and what you want to achieve in life. Work hard, be consistent while working towards your goal, do what you love most, be honest to yourself and people around you, and do not be ashamed of your failures take them as motivation. Also, find a support system and never allow people to take away their confidence. And remember, people are capable of taking away your confidence, but it is your responsibility to regain it” she said in an interview with NSESA foundation

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