Published on IT-online on 3 August 2020

The University of Pretoria (UP) has seen another edtech start-up emerge out of its TuksNovation programme, the institution’s high-tech incubator and accelerator.

Wingu Academy is a remote-learning platform that offers educational support to schools, tutoring centres and homeschoolers all over Africa, with live classes and tutorials, interactive online content that is aligned with the fourth industrial revolution, and continuous assessment.

Developed by teachers, UP alumni and postgraduate students who hold advanced degrees in respective fields, and in collaboration with researchers at the Wits School of Education, Wingu offers an international curriculum that is relevant globally but contextualised for the African continent. There is a focus on student-led learning, gamification, instant constructive feedback and alignment to major international curriculums.

The academy caters to learners between the ages of five and 19, who have a wide variety of choices to support individual learning at home, or to supplement a programme followed at a tutoring centre or school. Adult learners have also shown significant interest.

“This exceptional online platform presents children with the opportunity to engage with high-tech education innovation with the personal touch of face-to-face teaching,” says Isabel Schimper, a lecturer in speech-language pathology and audiology at UP. “We joined the Wingu family in June 2020. As an academic and a lecturer, I have high expectations of educational content, systems and facilitators or teachers.

“Our 11-year-old daughter has been homeschooled using the Cambridge curriculum for the past few years due to a health condition. We are truly impressed with the welcoming and supportive online community at Wingu.”

The edtech platform is the result of a collaboration between TutCo Tuition and EduWingu Cloud Education Solutions, both start-ups in the TuksNovation programme. TutCo Tuition emerged in response to the academic needs of students of the 2016 #FeesMustFall movement; fittingly, EduWingu arose in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wingu Academy is suited to full-time learners, those who travel frequently, athletes who need to focus on training but want an internationally recognised education, and prepares learners for a university education. Qualifications obtained through Wingu allow for entrance into major international tertiary institutions, including Ivy League and Oxbridge universities. International external exams are written at centres closest to the candidate’s home and are overseen by UK-based examination bodies.

Since its soft launch in May this year, the academy has seen rapid market adoption, with a vibrant community of schools, parents, students and tutors collaborating. The growth has largely been organic, with word of mouth through digital channels delivering unprecedented interest beyond South African borders.

Neighbouring African countries including Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe have expressed interest, as have countries further afield, such as Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Malawi, Zambia and Kenya. The furthest reaches to date include Vietnam and Kuwait.

“The Wingu teaching methodology is in line with 21st-century teaching principles, which will equip our children with critical and independent thinking, as well as tech skills for the fourth industrial revolution,” says Schimper.

“The platform is intuitive and interactive, and encourages children to take responsibility by preparing for lessons in a fun way using simulations and secret missions to solve problems. During face-to-face lessons, they get the opportunity to engage with the content, a highly qualified facilitator and peers. Consolidation of new content is then done through homework activities and online quizzes. My daughter enjoys every moment at Wingu.”

Dr Maria Phillips of Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, adds: “Wingu Academy has created a safe, efficient, quality learning environment online while maintaining face-to-face contact between the educator and child.

“In each subject, the student interacts with the educator to clarify content, discuss problems and direct learning. In the past month I have seen my teenage daughter’s mood improving and have noticed how much she is enjoying her schoolwork.”