Book lovers browse through books up for sale. Photo: by Abantu Book Festival

South Africa as a country with rich history, with a deep and diverse cultural experience, the Abantu Book Festival gives book lovers an opportunity to experience the diverse literary heritage of this continent. 

The Zenex Foundation celebrates as two learners from the Izimpande Zokukhanya Project make it into the top 20 achievers in the First Additional Language (FAL) National Olympiad. The two Grade 12 learners from Our Lady of the Rosary High School in iLembe District, KwaZulu-Natal - Kwenama Mkhize and Bongeka Mvelase - took 4th and 16th place respectively, in the Olympiad. They achieved Diamond, which is an equivalent of 80% and above. 

The COVID 19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the role of technology in education as schools closed on 18 March 2020. We know that children in the South African schooling system have already lost many school days and are expected to lose even more over the next 10-12 months. In this context, it is critical to explore a range of strategies to support children’s learning at home, including the use of technology. 



In the month of April and May 2020, JET Education Services (JET) engaged in an ambitious research bootcamp project in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The project had twelve work streams This was a great opportunity for young researchers to work under the guidance of more experienced researchers/practitioners, but also to be part of an innovative online approach that will also allow for learning to take place between peers.

On 19 May 2020, the Minister of Basic Education briefed the nation on plans for the return to school – providing the nation with leadership and certainty. She confirmed a staggered return to school, starting with Grades 12 and 7 on 1 June 2020 followed by other grades over time. In her address, the Minister announced that the health and safety of not only learners but also educators and all school personnel was paramount and she outlined some of the health and safety measures regarded as essential for a safe return to school.

Corporate South Africa's response to the social impact of the pandemic has been varied, with some companies stepping up to the plate early with vigour and leadership, and others - unsure about the long-term impact of the crisis on their bottom lines, as well as on society at large - responding with measure. 



“At this time, more than any other, we are reminded of the words of Madiba, when he said: "It is now in your hands.

- President Cyril Ramaphosa, 24 May 2020

As a responsive and progressive donor, the Zenex Foundation commits to working collaboratively with all stakeholders in the education ecosystem to ensure that all learners have access to quality learning and teaching or to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning. The COVID-19 landscape is ever-changing and we commit to adopting a flexible and agile approach to our grant-making while still maintaining an evidence-based approach. 

On 19 May 2020, the Minister of Basic Education briefed the nation on plans for the return to school – providing the nation with leadership and certainty. She confirmed a staggered return to school, starting with Grades 12 and 7 on 1 June 2020 followed by other grades over time. 

Zenex Foundation celebrates as one of its former ISASA M&E Programme beneficiaries flies the flag high at Cambridge University. Jabulani Nyathi took centre stage at the 2015 IEB Awards having achieved 7As (94% Maths and 97% Physical Science) +1B (Advanced Programme Maths). This achievement got him listed as one of the IEB outstanding achievers and was awarded an Allan Gray Orbis Scholarship to pursue his tertiary studies. 

By Mary Metcalfe and Shabir Madhi• 15 May 2020.

Readiness to reopen schools must be built from the ground up by schools, parents, school governing bodies and community leadership working together, say the writers. (Photo: Gallo Images / Grant Pitcher) 

By mid April about 1.725 billion students globally had been affected by the closure of school and higher education institutions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the UNESCO Monitoring Report, 192 countries have implemented nationwide closures, affecting about 99% of the world’s student population.This is unprecedented. The scale and complexity of what’s happening is entirely new territory. 

South Africa has been described by the World Bank as the most economically unequal country in the world. 29% of South Africans are unemployed[1] and 30.4 million South Africans live in poverty[2]. Education is the primary and most effective route to addressing the challenge of inequality in South Africa today, but the country’s education system is currently failing to meet its fundamental requirement, namely that of ensuring that all children are literate, which is the foundation of all learning. First published in The Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2019.

While monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a growing practice in social development, it is still a largely siloed process, data from which is not always used to inform programmatic improvements for greater overall impact. Dr Fatima Adam, programme director of research and evaluations at Zenex Foundation, explains that evaluative thinking is about embedding an organisational culture of holistic and responsive approaches to work. First published in The Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2019.

There is increasing awareness that resources and energy need to be focused on the early years of children's lives to help them to reach matric, pass key subjects well, access post-school learning opportunities and succeed in the world of work. But many learners in later phases of schooling need support as they lack basic curriculum knowledge and have consequently developed cognitive backlogs, a gap that must be addressed if they are to succeed.

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Recently published in the “Opinionistas” section on the Daily Maverick news portal – read Zenex Foundation CEO Gail Campbell’s opinion piece about what The Foundation believes is a core priority for President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement in order to ensure he can achieve his goal announced at SONA. During his address, he stated that is goal is to ensure that within a decade, every 10 year old in South Africa will be able to read with meaning. Campbell outlines some points to address the nation’s literacy crisis, and some recommendations have been provided too. Click here to read the full article on Daily Maverick

Language is central to all learning, from the early grades of school through to the senior years. The Zenex Foundation has always believed that language development is a critical component of learner performance and a crucial enabler for understanding concepts in Mathematics and Science – subjects needed to grow the South African economy.
As part of its strategy, Zenex promotes learning in Language and Mathematics through encouraging learner participation in Olympiads and Art Festivals. As far back as 2009, Zenex has prepared and supported learners from its various projects to participate in the English Olympiad, linked to the National Schools Festival. Participation in these events provides a range of learning opportunities, from exposure to literacy to stretching the participants’ creative thinking and writing abilities. The certificates of participation and achievement received benefit learners as they venture into the post-schooling realm and build their resumes following the completion of Grade 12.

October 5th is National Teachers’ Day. The Zenex Foundation honours and celebrates teachers throughout October and beyond, profiling stories of passion and achievement – sometimes against all odds.


Historic Durban school‚ Inanda Seminary‚ has teamed up with the Zenex Foundation to launch a pilot teacher-interns project in eight rural primary schools. Launched at Inanda Seminary on Tuesday‚ the programme will see 12 teacher-interns studying towards Bachelor of Education degrees through the University of South Africa placed at eight primary schools in Ndwedwe‚ north of Durban.

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The Zenex Foundation launched an Internship Programme as part of its 20-year legacy in 2015 to offer unemployed graduates an opportunity to gain work experience. The Foundation wishes to continue to contribute to the provision of work experience to unemployed graduates. While undertaking the work experience, the interns are encouraged to focus on an area for personal professional development. All of this is aimed at providing experience to build a CV, understand and function in a work environment and build skills for the workplace. 

How best can philanthropy facilitate government adoption? This was the theme of the International Education Funders Group (IEFG) Conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in November 2019. Participants gathered to discuss the role that foundations can play in facilitating governments’ adoption of evidence-based education models and solutions.

September is celebrated as Literacy Month globally, with special importance given to International Literacy Day on 8 September. As part of the festivities, South Africa also celebrates National Book Week, an initiative of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture. All of these initiatives raise awareness about the importance of literacy and instil a culture and love of reading. 

On Heritage Day, President Cyril Ramaphosa described the promotion of indigenous languages as an important means of preserving South Africa’s heritage. His emphasis is not only in line with the declaration by the United Nations proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages but also laudable and appropriate in a country whose constitution protects the rights of all languages. Language has the power to promote social cohesion in South Africa’s multicultural context and can also play a fundamental part in building a human rights culture in our country.

However, there is a complex interrelationship between language, heritage and culture in South Africa and we need equitable space for indigenous languages to grow and create value. We preserve and develop language through writing, reading and speaking, and thus the role of education is central when considering how best to ensure that a range of languages flourish. 

The Zenex Foundation extends its heartfelt congratulations to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the newly-appointed leadership in the national and provincial departments of basic education. We were particularly delighted and encouraged by the retention of the education Minister and some provincial education MECs, particularly in two provinces in which we work (Gauteng and the Western Cape). We look forward to a continuation of our partnership with government as we work together to address key education challenges in South Africa.


The Zenex Foundation attended the inaugural conference of the National Association of Social Change Entities in Education (NASCEE), which took place on 28-9 May 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosebank. The conference was held to launch NASCEE formally and to offer community leaders, activists and strategists a platform to come together and share insights. The theme for this event was “NPOs Working in Education: from Promise to Practice”.

Zenex Foundation has an annual budget of R 75 million to spend on grant making and general operations. Managing a task of this nature requires meticulous attention to detail, strong leadership and ethical conduct. The man behind this task at Zenex Foundation is Paresh Govind, Director of Finance & Corporate Services.

We caught up with him to find out more about his background, passions and future aspirations. Paresh’s story is one of overcoming obstacles, making sacrifices for loved ones and pursuing a life of fulfilment. While he had a rocky start in life, his perseverance and the support of his family has seen him through.

Developing young people from disadvantaged backgrounds has been the nub of Zenex’s learner support programmes for the past ten years. These learners are primed to enter tertiary education and contribute to scarce skills.

We caught up with Jonathan Banza and Laila Bera who were both part of the Zenex Inkanyezi Project. After successfully completing matric, they secured scholarships at the African Leadership Academy (ALA). This is residential academic institution which offers two-year courses to exceptional students from across Africa. It is aimed at producing future African leaders. Laila and Jonathan are currently doing their second year at the academy. Jonathan and Laila have risen above their challenging backgrounds through resilience and hard work.

In 2015, the Zenex Foundation launched an internal internship programme to commemorate 20 years of impact-fully driving educational change in South Africa. The objective of the programme was to create opportunities for workplace experience for young people. This programme is directly aligned to the Foundation’s vision which is to have “skilled and empowered young people that can contribute towards the growth, development, and democratisation of the country.” The positions were created to support communications, finance and administration within the organisation. The internship runs for a period of 18-24 months and interns are given an opportunity to learn through a structured work plan developed jointly with their managers.

Zenex Foundation has recently said goodbye to a key staff member who we’ll miss! But we are also happy to welcome some young blood to the team.

In April 2018, Zenex bade farewell to Dr Andile Dube, who joined Zenex in 2015 as Senior Programme Manager responsible for Systemic Programmes, and had been promoted to Director of Programmes by the time of her departure. She left Zenex to take on the exciting opportunity of heading up the Vodacom Foundation - Education.

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.

The Zenex Foundation is delighted that one of its own Trustees, Sindi Mabaso-Koyana, has been appointed as a Board member at Eskom.

Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Mabaso-Koyana’s appointment as one of the new Board members of the State-Owned Enterprise. The appointment of a new Eskom Board comes at a time in South Africa’s history where there is a heightened sense of hope for accountability in leadership and deliberate efforts to root out corruption.

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!

Improving literacy in the early grades, alongside focused attention and holistic support in Maths and Science in secondary school, are the most critical elements to ensuring quality results in Grade 12. These elements also help in creating a pipeline of young people enrolling for tertiary study in the key areas needed for economic development in South Africa.

On Wednesday, 19th October 2016 the Zenex Foundation hosted the “Conversations with Zenex Trustees”, a gathering of education stakeholders in Johannesburg, as a reflective conversation on partnerships and developments in education.

The Zenex Foundation initiated a Legacy Scholarship Project in 2015 as part of commemorating the Foundation’s 20th anniversary. The Project falls under the Foundation’s Sector Strengthening Programme, which has the overall objective of building the capacity of key strategic elements of the education support sector. To this end, the Scholarship Project focuses on addressing the problem of scarce skills in Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E), as well as education research, through the development of Black evaluators and researchers. This area of support is particularly important in the context of an increasing interest in evidence-based approaches to education policy and practices.

Zenex has been involved in M & E and education research for more than 15 years. Through its experiences, it has become clear that there are very few evaluation experts and even fewer Black evaluators and researchers working in the field of education. As such, the Foundation initiated a two-pronged capacity building Scholarship Project to contribute towards building capacity in these areas.

The Zenex Foundation hosted a one-day Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) conference on the 2nd July 2015 at the Glenhove Conference Centre, Melrose. The conference was one in a series of conferences, held in partnership with Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town. Zenex is interested in promoting evaluation amongst stakeholders and increasing the pool of evaluators.