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Elsen Academy Virtual School

We are able to set up a bespoke virtual website for anyone wanting to take their learning and education online.

Photo of PHILIPPA FABBRI
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I am a.....

  • Organization
  • Social Entrepreneur

Tell us about your idea

When the COVID19 crisis closed our school building upbrupting on the 16 March 2020, we needed to very quickly, make a plan to bring our school and its teachers into the homes of our students so that their learning was not disrupted. Elsen Academy is a registered NPO (056-340) and it's core purpose, is teaching learners with special educational needs. Many of our students also have co-morbidities such as anxiety, depression and specific learning barriers such as ADHD, and dyslexia. 

We decided that as an NPO, we needed to use our existing resources and create this virtual "safe place" for students to access from home and connect with their teachers, as well as find and access their school work easily and so that parents would be able to facilitate the schooling at home without too much stress. The Elsen Academy Virtual School was launched on the 5 April with every child in a classroom, with every teacher in a classroom and every parent was given a school email address to access the virtual school and classrooms. The students already had email addresses that they used. 

During the time leading up to the launch, we needed to ensure that parents had access to internet and all our teachers had internet at their homes. In some cases, we managed to get data sponsored. 

We are now in our 5th week of crisis-schooling and parents and teachers have settled into a good routine and feedback from people has been positive. 

Our idea is to set up these virtual schools anywhere, as long as people have a device and internet access. We can design a virtual school in just a few hours, adding as many classrooms as is needed. Teachers will be able to edit their classrooms, adding content, videos, images and links to further websites. The platform we are using is Google sites and Google classroom. It is important that no matter where the student is, he is still able to connect, engage and be inspired and educated. The link to the virtual school website is https://sites.google.com/elsen.co.za/virtualschool/home

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Over-crowded classrooms with desks in rows. Teachers using a lecture-style teaching method. Out-dated textbooks. A rigid and inflexible curriculum that is too long to fit into a school year. Too many assessments. No accommodations for children with learning barriers. No time for creative activities. These issues listed above were part of the old school system that unfortunately is still apparent in many of our schools. There should never be a one-size fits all approach to learning. Every child is different and has a different set of skills and abilities, meaning that we need to really get to know how students before we can attempt to teach them. They are not a sponge that we need to try and saturate before the water runs out. Children are craving human connection and relationships, they are excited to learn especially if there is technology available and they are naturally creative beings so we need to channel those gifts and lead them to find their passion.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am an enthusiastic, passionate and self-motivated individual with a strong drive to make a difference in the lives of others. I love to learn as much as I love to teach and our “no limits to learning” catch phrase at school epitomizes what we strive for. I co-hosted a weekly radio show on Kingfisher FM (our local Christian radio station) called “Beyond the Classroom” and in 2013 I received an award from our city’s prestigious Business Women’s Association for “Business Woman of the Year” for the category ‘social entrepreneur’. This was a great honour. When I graduated as a primary school teacher, I would never have thought that I would have had the courage to start a school and manage a business consisting of just over 140 students and close to thirty staff members.

What region are you located in?

  • Southern Africa

Where are you located?

The city of Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) is a coastal city in the eastern cape. Our main industry is car manufacturing. Our school is in the city centre and we have a very mixed community coming from many different areas.

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Spam
Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

I think there's been some wonderful conversation that has happened in the Comments section, PHILIPPA FABBRI and I would love for you to update your submission with the additional information that you have included with your comments! This is to make sure that all of your thoughts are captured in the submission before the submission deadline on May 26.

Spam
Photo of PHILIPPA FABBRI
Team

I did so, thank you for the suggestion.

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