August 29, 2018

Grahamstown 2018 Schools Festival and Olympiad

The Zenex Foundation is delighted to announce that two learners from Ethembeni Enrichment Centre in Port Elizabeth, who are part of the Zenex Sakha Ikamva Project, were recent winners at the English Olympiad at the Schools Festival in Grahamstown. Vuyolwethu Memani came 4th and Sesethu Kasper came 16th in the 2018 English First Additional Language (FAL) Top 20. Congratulations to them both; they have done us proud. 

The Top 8 candidates at the Olympiad win scholarships to Rhodes University for their first year of study in any field of study.  The Top 10 FAL winners receive cash prizes. Consequently, Vuyolwethu wins a first-year scholarship to Rhodes and a cash prize! Well done, Vuyo!

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.