Tribute to Tessa Welch

We wish to pay special tribute to our cherished and esteemed colleague of the last 25 years, Tessa Welch, who died on 8 July 2020. Jenny Glennie, the Saide Director, writes:

It was with great sadness that we became aware of Tessa’s illness early in 2020 and watched her decline as the year proceeded. On a cold July morning amidst the Covid pandemic, we bade her farewell - fifty of us in a draughty church joined by a couple of hundred friends and colleagues connected by Zoom.

Tessa’s presence at Saide was one of energy, enthusiasm and laughter; her approach thoughtful, grounded in both context and theory; always ready to learn; professional, and forever generous and kind. Tessa was and will remain central to the fabric of the Saide team; she made a major contribution to crafting and strengthening that fabric. She championed the notions of team work and partnership.

Her contributions to Saide over the years were seminal: she gave substance, and exemplars, to the quality criteria for distance education; she championed, and gave practical expression, to the notion of ongoing professional development of teachers; and she was a pioneer in the application of open educational resources to some of our most pressing educational challenges.

In the last seven years with us, she blossomed as she took responsibility for Saide’s African Storybook, steering it to a platform where now nearly 1 500 unique storybooks, created largely by different African communities, are available to download freely, and where 209 languages of Africa are represented across the 8 000 storybooks available.

In each of May and June this year, we boasted over 130 000 downloads directly from our platform. The tools of the platform continue to provide agency to create, translate and use storybooks for different communities across the continent. Through these tools, various languages where no storybooks existed before, can now find their voice. This is a wonderful legacy.

We are truly privileged to have worked side by side with such a remarkable person for over 24 years, and to have enjoyed so much of Tessa’s wisdom and joy.

In the words of one of her colleagues, Maryla Bialobrzeska,

We remember Tessa’s sharp mind, never pedestrian, always creative.

We remember Tessa leaping to action with great warmth and enthusiasm.

We remember Tessa’s humour and humanity!

Tessa gave so unstintingly of her rich being, her light will continue to shine.