June 14, 2019


The Zenex Foundation is calling for EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST from Non Governmental Organisations, Academic Institutions and other players in the field for partners to design a pilot of interventions aimed at addressing Mathematics and English content backlogs in grades 8 and 9. The Foundation will consider projects for implementation in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape only. The expression of interest should specify the proposed province/s of implementation


  1. Introduction

The Zenex Foundation is calling for EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST from Non Governmental Organisations, Academic Institutions and other players in the field for partners to design a pilot of interventions aimed at addressing Mathematics and English content backlogs in grades 8 and 9. The Foundation will consider projects for implementation in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape only. The expression of interest should specify the proposed province/s of implementation

The Senior Phase is one of the worst performing and neglected parts of the schooling system. The Annual National Assessments (ANA) performance for Grade 9 learners in Home Language is 43%, English First Additional Language is 33% and Mathematics is 14%.[1] This poor performance results in significant learner backlogs, high dropout rates and few learners choosing to study Mathematics and Science into the Further Education and Training (FET) Phase. Teachers in the Senior Phase are usually the most burdened with teaching subjects they do not have training in.

  1. Background

The Foundation is of the view that poor performance in Mathematics, Science and English in the FET Phase, amongst other reasons, is as a result of a lack of foundational knowledge in Mathematics and poor language skills. These are skills that are not adequately acquired in foundation phase and result in challenges in senior phases. The Primary Mathematics Research Report (PMRP) shows that learners in South Africa get promoted from one grade to the next without mastering the content and foundational competencies of preceding grades[2]

The performance of learners in language has been found to be a binding constraint on learner achievement and educational progression. Research into literacy acknowledges that reading is critical in literacy and language development. Thus, Literacy is a necessary minimum condition for improving mathematics performance.

The Zenex Foundation has been engaged in improving learner outcomes at a High school level in Mathematics, Science and English for the last 25 years. This has included interventions over a period of twelve years dedicated to learners to improve their Mathematics and English performance. The findings of the monitoring and evaluations of the school projects show that learners reach the FET Phase with content backlogs, weak foundational knowledge and poor language skills.

In 2015 the Zenex Foundation conducted a landscape analysis to explore existing mathematics education interventions in South Africa thus providing evidence of what exists and to make recommendations for future areas of attention. The landscape analysis found that a number of medium-large scale interventions have been implemented in SA. These interventions concentrated in Secondary Education, particularly the FET phase, and focussed on teacher development, learner performance, parent and community interventions, and provision of resources.

An analysis of the 2016 PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) assessment revealed that over 50% of Grade 4 learners could not read for meaning and about 30% were completely illiterate.[3] While the National Senior Certificate (NSC) and PIRLS results show steady improvements in English literacy and comprehension achievement at grade 5 level, the country is still ranking amongst the lowest in the world.

The educational path of Mathematics and Science in South Africa remains a challenge not only for learner transitions but for the country’s demand and supply of scarce and critical skill. TIMMS 2016 shows that not many learners choose pure Mathematics and Physical science post grade 9 and those who do are not fully competent in the subject areas. The study shows that the country is not making much headway when it comes to both Mathematics and Physical Science.

Literature has shown that building the foundational knowledge in mathematics particularly in number sense and patterns is critical for later Mathematics conceptual learning[4]. Furthermore, English is seen as a catalyst for learning gains in all subjects.

  1. The Senior Phase Focus

The Zenex Foundation is committed to improving learner performance and to increase the pool of learners who choose Mathematics in the FET Phase. The expression of interest is for an intervention that targets both teachers and learners in the Senior Phase. The intervention should focus primarily at addressing content backlogs in both Mathematics and English. The learner components of the intervention could incorporate after school studies.


Senior Phase overlaps primary and secondary schooling. Grade 8 is the key transition year with a shift into high-school and much more formal literature reading and comprehension focussing on interpreting text and creative writing and in Mathematics the focus is on formal algebra. The end of Grade 9 is a key year for subject choice requiring language as the bedrock for cross curricular engagement and achievement especially in mathematics or mathematics literacy and physical science. Strengthening learning in the transition between senior phases to FET is key for increasing the pool of learners who comfortably use language and opt for mathematics at FET level.

There is evidence that the earlier the intervention the better. There is a need to increase the number of learners who would opt into Mathematics at the FET Phase. Interventions at FET phase aim to improve the performance and not the numbers of learners who select Mathematics and/or science. Intervening at the FET Phase, while necessary, tends to be too late to increase the numbers of learners and producing significant improvement in performance in Grade 12.


Mathematics at the Senior Phase is a compulsory subject and if teaching and learning is strengthened, foundations necessary for the selection of Mathematics by end of Grade 9 and improved performance throughout high school can be laid. Similarly, English which is needed to mediate all teaching and learning, need to be strengthened at this phase thus ensuring that learners are able to access conceptual learning.

The teachers have limited pedagogical content knowledge in English and Mathematics that is required for remediation of backlogs carried from the Intermediate Phase. Furthermore, high schools tend to allocate least qualified educators at this phase while the stronger educators are placed at the FET phase.

  1. Specifications

The envisaged Senior Phase Mathematics and English Backlogs intervention should:

  1. Be designed for senior phase learners and teachers
  2. Content areas of the intervention for both Mathematics and English
  3. Be integrated to curriculum teaching
  4. Focus on pedagogy and content knowledge to provide a grade-differentiated capacity
  5. Address content backlogs
  6. Be designed with scale in mind with materials that can be self-used and can build the capability of the teachers in the education system
  7. Provide teachers and learners with Open Resource materials to enhance teaching and learning
  • Zenex Expected Outcomes
  • Learners complete Grade 9 with Grade appropriate content knowledge
  • Improved language capabilities and comprehension
  • Learners choose Mathematics in the FET Phase
  • Improved teacher capacity to diagnose content backlogs and grade differentiate learners.
  • Developed learner backlog intervention resources / materials
  • Duration

This is envisaged as a three year intervention with implementation starting in January 2020.. Detail approval process

  • OER Products

All programmes and materials designed under this agreement will be Open Education Resources and the conditions will be agreed upon between the selected organisation and the Zenex Foundation.

  1. The modalities of delivery should include but not limited to: Teacher training materials
  2. Learner materials
  3. A designed intervention that is e-learning and/or face to face for both teachers and learners
  • Partnerships

Expressions of interest will be accepted for both Mathematics and English or one of the subject areas. Organisations should be open to partnerships and willing to work with other providers.

  1. Evaluation

The intervention will be subjected to an evaluation by an independent evaluation agency to determine its impact.

  1. Expression of Interest Submission

Applicants can submit expressions of interest for both English and Mathematics or for one subject area.  Furthermore, applicants can collaborate with other individuals and organisations to ensure that the required capacity and expertise is available within their team.

 The document must include:

  1. Motivation for interest to work in the Senior Phase
  2. Description of perceived intervention (high level activities and outcomes)
  3. Province (s) of delivery
  4. A profile (organisation or person) which includes:
    • Details of the Organisation
    • Governance of the Organisation
  5. Lead person with expertise in the Phase
  6. References of other donor partnerships

  1. Timeframe



Expression of interests released

11 June 2019

Submission of Expressions of Interest to the Foundation

16h00 on 21 June 2019

Presentation of the Expression of Interest to the Foundation (on invitation)

2 July 2019

Project Design meetings with selected organisations

5 July 2019

Submission of Final Proposal to the Foundation

17 July 2019

Submission of the Proposal to the Zenex Board

5 August 2019

Communication of Outcomes

8 August 2019

Note: Actual dates and budget parameters will be communicated with selected organisations /individuals.


The project will commence in January 2020.

  1. Contact Person

All queries relating to this call may be addressed to:

Mrs Fundiswa Sayo

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

011 481 7826


[1] Minister Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, Statement on the Release of Annual National Assessments Results for 2013, Mahlahle Primary School, Atteridgeville: December 5 2013.

[2] The Primary Mathematics Research Project: towards evidence based educational development in SA

[3] PIRLS 2016

[4] Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework 218