Pretoria-based online school Think Digital College has scooped The Virtual School of the Year category in the 2020/21 international Corporate Livewire Prestige Awards, run from the United Kingdom.
The Corporate Livewire Prestige Awards recognise small and medium-sized businesses “that have proven to be the best in their market” over the past 12 months. All shortlisted companies are asked to support their nomination with evidence of their work, positive feedback from clients, information on previous accreditations and recognition, and highlights of the most outstanding parts of their business.
The judging panel base their decisions on areas such as service excellence, quality of the product/service provided, innovative practices, value, ethical or sustainable methods of working, and consistency in performance. The winners are those who can best demonstrate their strengths in these areas.
In a statement following the awards, Think Digital College chief executive officer Janessa Leita – a prominent campaigner for virtual learning in South Africa – said the 2020/21 award was particularly important because it came at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic proved that online learning was the future of education.
“This award is very special to all of us at Think Digital College because it comes at a critical epoch, not only in education, but our whole lives in totality. Many years before the Covid-19 pandemic, and throughout the current outbreak, we have been providing a state of the art learning environment where learners, from wherever they are geographically, are taught through online sessions by our highly qualified staff complement,” she said.
“We provide the CAPS [national Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement] and British international curricula in an integrated, engaging, and effective way to our rising number of learners. Our aim is to produce young adults who are innovative, creative, and independent in their thinking, who have courage, perseverance, and resilience, and who believe in themselves and their potential.”
The name “Think Digital” was derived from a strong belief that thinking was one of the most important things every child should be encouraged to do, she said.
“We have so much information at our finger tips, but we need to learn how to think creatively in order to use this information to plan, design, and innovate for anything new.”
Because of the growing popularity of online learning amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Think Digital College was now expanding to the United States and the United Arab Emirates, Leita said.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said the Covid-19 pandemic, which had closed all physical schooling in South Africa for a few months, had caught the country unprepared, but the lessons learned from this were priceless.
“The awarding of the award to a South African school is great news to all of us in the terrain of education. This signals the beginning of a path towards greater performance as we grapple with the demands of the fourth industrial revolution.
“The Covid-19 pandemic caught us unprepared and has exposed the gaps that exist between private and public schooling.
“If anything, government should work around the clock to close these visible gaps and ensure that the African child is not left behind. It should be clear at this point that government alone will not be able to resolve the challenges that are faced primarily by rural and township schools,” he said.
Makaneta appealed to the private sector in South Africa to come on board and assist in the process of bringing virtual learning to all communities. Economic problems and high data costs were often cited as the major impediments to online learning in South Africa. Corruption in government also reared its head in the roll-out of developmental projects.
“So far, the private sector is still lagging behind with an exception of a few companies here and there who sporadically run projects aimed at uplifting education. The biggest and central question that must be answered is whether government will do enough to rid itself of corruption, given the recent uproar from society in relation to how tenders are awarded,” Makaneta said.