August 29, 2018

The end of an era as Dr Hofmeyr and Sir Oliver retire as Trustees

Dr Jane Hofmeyr and Sir Michael Oliver Dr Jane Hofmeyr and Sir Michael Oliver

The Zenex Foundation bids farewell to two respected and long-serving members of the Board, Dr Jane Hofmeyr and Sir Michael Oliver, who retired as Trustees in 2017 after 20 and 14 years of service respectively.

While saying goodbye is never easy, it has afforded their fellow Trustees and staff the opportunity to reflect on decades of meaningful contributions and achievements spearheaded by the two Trustees. As Board members, Jane and Michael have built deep institutional memory which has, over the years, cascaded down to Zenex staff and forms the cornerstone of a solid, stable, yet flexible organisation. Looking back on their tenure has been an exercise in gratitude.

Zenex partners know that the Board is the engine that drives the work of the Foundation. Preparing for Board meetings is a time-consuming affair, given that these meetings are scheduled about six times a year. The entire staff complement of Zenex gets immersed in compiling comprehensive proposals, research and evaluation reports. This is done to meet the quality and knowledge standards of a Board that is deeply vested in the education sector and engages robustly with all submissions tabled.

The Management of the Zenex Foundation deeply appreciates having such an involved Board, which provides critical strategic direction for the programmatic work of the Foundation. Such is the level of the rigour at Board level that the quest for precision is a known, yet unspoken non-negotiable among Foundation staff.

Jane Hofmeyr, an esteemed educationist, was the quintessential embodiment of this rigour. She brought with her deep knowledge of the education sector and networks, which was useful in the Foundation’s formative years and for its continued growth.

Her views on the role of language as an enabler in learning – particularly in technical subjects such as Mathematics and Science – and her support for learner development and initial and ongoing teacher training, remain the hallmarks of the Zenex Foundation’s work as we know it today. Significantly, it was her influence on evidence-based decision-making at the Foundation that has been one of her notable contributions. In her role as Trustee, she championed the practice of Monitoring & Evaluation as a mechanism to deepen learning in education interventions.

The Zenex Board has always been a rich cultural and professional melting pot of consummate individuals brought together by their passion for education. Alongside Jane, was Sir Michael Oliver, who at the time of his appointment to the Board, was Lord Mayor of London. He dedicated his 14-year tenure on the Board to promoting cross-learning between the United Kingdom and South Africa. Through his engagement, increasingly we grew to appreciate the complexity of the challenges in education, some of which were unique to the South African context, and some universal. He was instrumental in pushing the Foundation to innovate in Mathematics, Science and Language education, noting that governments had limited experience in this regard and were primarily concerned with adopting what has been proven to work.

For Zenex, it was an honour to learn from these giants of education, among the finest in the sector in their respective countries. Both Jane and Michael have contributed immensely in a manner that enabled the Foundation to produce seminal learnings from its work, influencing internal and external practice in the support of Mathematics, Science and Language education. Such is the legacy of these long-tenured Trustees that a culture of evidence-based learning and sharing, as well as innovation and testing new ground in education, are now second nature and synonymous with Zenex in education funding circles.