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From northern Namibia to Australia: 29-year old PhD holder making waves in financial mathematics

2019-05-22  Staff Report 2

From northern Namibia to Australia: 29-year old PhD holder making waves in financial mathematics
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Paheja Siririka

WINDHOEK – Meet 29-year-old Mesias Alfeus, a Namibian lecturer in financial mathematics at the University of Wollongong (UoW) in Australia. 

“I managed to progress from a small village in northern Namibia where I faced discrimination and bullying to have myself educated, and I am pursuing a passion for mathematics that led me all the way to Australia to do my PhD at UTS (University of Technology Sydney),” he told Youth Corner this week. 

Earlier this year, Alfeus’s PhD thesis was accepted and this was a chance to move on to the next stage of his career as a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Wollongong. 

“I had a fantastic time at the UTS Business School as a PhD student. I grasped the values of persistence, and independence in academic research. During my first year, I attended courses where PhD students from all over Australia converge and go through advanced materials for a solid research foundation in finance,” he gracefully said. Alfeus was also a PhD student representative for the Finance Department in which he had excellent opportunities to interact with intellectuals from diverse cultures. 

“I was able to undertake leadership training and workshops which provided me with skills to value for life,” highlighted Alfeus. 

His love for mathematics started at a relatively young age when he played the traditional game ‘Owela womanghete’, heavily involving himself in mathematical thinking with his great grandmother at home in northern Namibia. He became keen at mathematics and was encouraged by his teachers to pursue this interest. 

“My first desire was to become a teacher because the only professional workers in the village were teachers so I had the desire to become a teacher one day,” related Alfeus. 

His abilities in mathematics were recognised by educators and he was encouraged to study science. Alfeus, having been awarded a scholarship by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, commenced his undergraduate studies in mathematics and physics at the University of Namibia in 2009. 

Having completed his undergraduate studies he did not really have clear idea of what he wanted to do with his mathematics degree. 

“My mentor Professor Frednard Gideon encouraged me to enrol for a joint postgraduate honours degree in mathematical finance taught by Stellenbosch University, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and the University of Cape Town,” recalled Alfeus. 

This meant he had to leave Namibia to continue his studies in South Africa. He found the honours program extremely challenging and he was one of only two of the eight students who started the course to graduate. “On completion, I won the Stellenbosch University merit award,” boasted Alfeus. 

He then received a sponsorship from the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) to proceed with a master’s degree by research in financial mathematics at Stellenbosch University. On completion, he won for a second time the Stellenbosch University merit award. His biggest aspiration: “I wish I could get a job in Namibia. I am now becoming a global citizen, acquiring the necessary skills to bring it home, so that I can be at a better position to help my country,” he hoped.

His advice to Namibian youths: “Whatever you do, do it with discipline and with enthusiasm. In trials and tribulation times, persevere with Christ.” 

2019-05-22  Staff Report 2

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