Grad at home for Maths doctor

Dr Hloniphile Sithole Mthethwa. PHOTO: FACEBOOK
Dr Hloniphile Sithole Mthethwa. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

While the countrywide lockdown has coincided with graduation season for many students, compelling them to postpone their ceremonies, Dr Hloniphile Sithole Mthethwa will not let Covid-19 steal her shine.

Sithole Mthethwa, from Esigodini in Edendale, was supposed to receive her fourth degree — a PhD in Applied Maths — this week.

Being the first person in her family to obtain a PhD, the mother of two would not let the opportunity pass by and staged a graduation at home before posing for photographs.

“Homemade graduation! Congratulations to everyone due to graduate this season,” Sithole Mthethwa posted on her Facebook page.

The post went viral on Facebook and had over 1 000 shares.

Sithole Mthethwa told The Witness on Wednesday: “It’s sad, but I understand the current global situation. It would have been really nice to be at the graduation ceremony together with two students that I supervised — Nolwazi Nkomo and Tsepiso Madondo. They were going to graduate with a Master of Science (MSc) and BSc (Honours) in Applied Mathematics respectively.”

Her journey to get the PhD meant that Sithole Mthethwa had to first acquire a BSc, followed by honours and then a master’s degrees in Maths. “I have always been good with numbers from my primary education. My first love for Maths was instilled at Edendale Technical High School by my high school female teachers, Thandeka Nene and Dr Pinkie Mthembu.

“I went to UKZN, PMB, which had a strong Mathematics department and I wanted to be a Maths lecturer one day.

“I was introduced to research when I was doing my BSc Honours degree at Stellenbosch University. That is when I decided a career in academia is what I really want to do. Then I knew that ultimately, I will have to study until PhD level because PhD is a basic degree for undertaking high quality research and supervising doctoral students.”

As much as she found her doctoral studies challenging, it was also enjoyable, she said.

“I had to juggle between my job and being a mother. However, I received a lot of support from the university and family. I am thankful to my supervisors for their mentorship and vast knowledge which encouraged me to widen my research from various perspectives. I managed to publish four research articles during my doctoral studies.

“In particular, my research focus was on fluid dynamics. I solved boundary value problems and determined the accuracy and efficiency of recent local linearisation methods combined with spectral techniques for solving boundary value problems,” she said.

Sithole Mthethwa is a Mathematics lecturer at the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus.

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