St John’s College teacher Neal Novelmeier
NEAL Hovelmeier, a former St John’s College deputy headmaster in Harare, who acrimoniously parted ways with the school after admitting that he was gay, has been nominated as one of the 2019-2020 Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellows at Harvard University.
According to the institute, Hovelmeier will pursue an individual project in a community dedicated to exploration and inquiry at Harvard’s institute for advanced study.
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is regarded one of the foremost academic institutions in the world. Started in 1999, the institute has hosted about 900 fellows.
Radcliffe Institute dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin said: “Radcliffe’s Fellowship Programme — a microcosm of the Institute — is a laboratory of ideas where scholars, artists, scientists, and practitioners draw insights from one another and generate new knowledge that spans disciplinary boundaries. I am extraordinarily excited to see what emerges from this incredible group of individuals in the year ahead.”
An educationist, Hovelmeier is also an internationally published author of three highly-acclaimed novels, as well as numerous short writing, articles, academia and plays.
His unceremonious departure from St John’s College, one of the elite schools in Harare, was met with mixed reactions with some saying he was supposed to stay at the school while others said homosexuality was unacceptable in some quarters, hence they feared he was going to influence the students.
After the announcement was made that he would be going to the US as part of the fellowship, some parentsbemoaned his departure as a loss to the school.
They described the former deputy head as a highly esteemed teacher hounded out of a job he had held for 15 years with the highest professionalism and integrity.
They said his sexual orientation must remain his private affair which must not be used as a form of abuse and discrimination.
“There is still a large group of people who are trying to convince St John’s to re-employ this man simply on the grounds that this country desperately needs to have excellent teachers working in our schools, not sidelined or forced to find work elsewhere because of the prejudice which exists in society (one I am deeply respectful of as a Shona myself, but one which I also feel needs to be taken into careful context when we consider how devastating discrimination can be of any kind),” said one parent, Francis Mpofu.
The Radcliffe Institute fosters innovative research collaborations and offers hundreds of public lectures, exhibitions, performances, conferences, and other events annually.