Think Digital Academy has over 3 000 students and 30 educational support centres offering its content, and it has just opened its first branch in the US.
When her then nine-year-old son was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, a nervous disorder causing repetitive movements or unwanted sounds, in 2016, Pretoria mother Janessa Leita founded a school to cater for his special needs.
“A common comorbid condition of Tourette’s is anxiety and depression and I realised traditional schooling would not be the best option for my son Alessandro,” she said.
With an illustrious background in higher education and owning a further education and training college for 17 years, the mother of three decided to bring in her network of experts to create a world-class pupil management system and content covering both the South African and British International curriculums.
Four years later, the virtual school, Think Digital Academy, has over 3 000 students and 30 educational support centres offering its content and it has just opened its first branch in the US.
The academy plans to open an office in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Australia next year.
According to Leita, the school caters for a wide range of pupils, from the academically gifted to those with reading and learning disabilities, high-performance athletes, children who want to focus on music and cultural competencies, and children with chronic illnesses.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on movement and interaction catapulted the virtual academy to new heights, with the number of students doubling in the first three months of the pandemic.
As campaigners and a centre of online education long before COVID-19 struck, Leita said they were perfectly positioned and capacitated to provide a full solution.
“There was no time for planning, the majority of schools just rushed into the transition to online learning and many pupils and parents were deeply frustrated and disappointed in the user experience,” she said.
The global pandemic opened up opportunities worldwide for Think Digital Academy as pupils started registering from a number of different countries including the US, UAE, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Germany, Spain and Brazil.
As a result, the global server infrastructure was fortified to ensure seamless connectivity and Think Digital Academy, which has won the international Corporate Livewire Prestige Award, expanded its reach to serve a global community.
“We believe this global pandemic will embrace a new, more effective way of educating students in the information age,” Leita said.
She said it was anticipated that the education-at-home surge prompted by the pandemic would become a lasting choice for many students and parents.
The expansion to the US market has come with sacrifices and compromises, with the institution having to ditch “college” from its original name and adopt “academy”, as college refers to a tertiary institution in the US.
Her son is matriculating this year and has applied to US universities to study aerospace engineering.
Published in The Citizen – SA digital academy goes global
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