Education activist Lizandra Wessels makes one believe in the power of pursuing a dream. Here Lizandra, as the mother of an ADHD child and wife of an ADHD husband, recounts how she dreamt about establishing a school for ADHD children in Bloemfontein, and how her dream is finally becoming a reality…
Although Lizandra’s adult life has revolved largely around education and teaching, her own experience of school was not a positive one. “I’ve always enjoyed learning, but I was never fond of the social interactions that accompanied the learning at school. This was mainly because I used to be introverted when I was younger, which developed into social anxiety.”
Fortunately, this all changed when Lizandra started her career as an intern teacher for Foundation Phase learners. One thing led to another, and seven years later, she was given the opportunity to become a principal at an Edulife school. “As the school was still fairly new, my duties included those of a founding head, and I had the honour to establish the school in its initial phase and grow it to its full potential.”
As an educator, Lizandra became increasingly aware of the ever-growing number of learners who experienced learning difficulties. “Most of these learners had great potential and could excel academically but they could simply not keep up with the pace expected of them and were discouraged by the way they were treated by their peers and teachers.” From this realisation grew the dream to establish a facility where children could learn in an environment where they were nurtured and understood.
Apart from her role as an educator, Lizandra is also a wife and mother, which links strongly to her ADHD activism. “I adore my role as a wife and mother. My husband and son are the core of my existence, but they also keep me entertained and, on my toes, literally, because they both have ADHD. My four-year-old son, Joshua, is an astonishing human being. My husband, Frans, is a former musician and club owner who decided to retire from the entertainment industry to spend more time with his family and pursue his passion as an entrepreneur.”
Following Joshua’s ADHD diagnosis and witnessing the struggles of children with ADHD in mainstream schools, Lizandra and Frans decided to do something tangible for their son, but also for other ADHD children by establishing a school for these children in Bloemfontein. Lizandra explains, “It has taken us months to find the perfect location for the school, but Frans’s continued faith and perseverance rewarded us with an address that Sage Academy now calls home.” Sage Academy’s first campus, called Keen Campus, will be located in Fichardt Park.
Asked what words of encouragement she has for parents of ADHD children, her answer speaks of someone who has walked the path. “It’s not an easy task to raise a child with ADHD and sometimes you feel like giving up because you’re tired and overwhelmed. I understand the tears you cry at night when everyone else is sleeping, because you feel that you have failed your child. You search endlessly for answers as you watch your child slowly lose their sparkle because they’re forced to abandon their natural energy and creativity to fit into society’s little box. But, why should we limit our children in using the very qualities that will allow them to lead one day? Different is not bad; in fact, it’s incredibly good. I’d like to challenge you to start thinking differently about your child; start seeing strengths where others see weaknesses.”
Lizandra believes that she was unknowingly being prepared for her journey by the strong desire God awoke in her to gain knowledge and wisdom. “I started working part time at the age of 14 despite my social anxiety because I was determined to grow as an individual and to enrich myself with life experience. This taught me to accept myself and to learn from every challenge. I believe that God also gave me a love for ADHD so that I could succeed on my journey as a parent to an ADHD child, wife to an ADHD husband, and founder of an ADHD school.”