Zenex has a long history with the English Olympiad and the Grahamstown Schools Festival. For the past seven years, learners in our programme have participated in the Olympiad and at the Schools Festival, which is part of the main Grahamstown Festival. Dedicated teachers give up their holidays to act as chaperones, and the learners enjoy a stimulating and enriching week of language and the arts.
In both 2015 and again this year, the Zenex staff also attended the Schools Festival as a team building exercise. The trip was jointly funded by Zenex and each team member. We find that this time away means the Zenex team has an opportunity to move out of the formality of the work environment and to participate in the arts with our project learners and teachers.
There are several reasons for Zenex’s ongoing participation in this week of activities for the learners in its academic support programmes. The primary reason is that poor English language skills among both learners and teachers have been identified as one of the key factors that impact negatively on Mathematics and Science results. Another reason is that the Olympiad stimulates creative writing and critical thinking. It is vital to stimulate both the left and right brain of learners, and this balance is achieved through participation in workshops on creative writing, as well as movement and dance sessions. Learners additionally get a chance to interact with a diverse range of other learners as well as attend festival productions, where they can meet artists and performers. Finally, the Olympiad is important for the CVs of learners as they all get a participant certificate.
Zenex does preparation with learners, taking them through workshops before they write the Olympiad. They do a mock writing exam in advance and get feedback, and then they write for the topic of the year. Our learners have done better and better over the years with an increasing number getting gold, silver and bronze medals.