Camille’s Academy: The journey that started in a garage

Submitted by: Jennifer Cipriani, Consultant, Acme Marketing Consultancy

10/22/20203 min read

Kaieteur News – Ever so often something happens, a scientific breakthrough, an invention, a disaster – that can either create opportunities, test our ability to adapt or destroy us. The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the tourism and entertainment industries for instance as there was hardly room for those businesses to adapt as the customer experience requires physical presence and social interactions which are prohibited. One sector has managed to adapt fairly quickly to the new normal by leveraging technology, and that is the education sector. Leading the charge in this fast-paced innovation locally is Camille’s Academy, a private education institution that started humbly in October 1996 in a garage, with a few children from the neighbourhood. “I never planned to be a teacher but I was asked to tutor a few of the neighbour’s children after I did well at my exams. My students did well at their exams and I was encouraged to continue tutoring. My dad built a few desks and chairs and we operated from our garage,” Camille Deokie, Director of Camille’s Academy recounted. The first school was opened at Soesdyke, a village near to Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Over the years, Camille’s Academy has expanded to three additional physical locations – Diamond, East Bank Demerara; Crane, West Coast Demerara and Lusignan, East Coast Demerara. They have also introduced online learning from nursery to high school, following the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the closure of classroom learning. The challenge with online learning is that a significant number of students – about 40 percent – have no or poor internet connectivity. This hurdle was surmounted by offering a self-study option where parents uplift worksheets and return these to be marked.

How does Camille’s Academy benefit customers, the community and country? It’s not all about the books. The Director believes her passion for delivering quality education in an environment that promotes ethnic and religious diversity and family results in students becoming well-rounded, disciplined individuals with morals. Undoubtedly, the world needs more kind, empathetic, emotionally intelligent people and this institution makes a concerted effort to produce students who can contribute meaningfully to the country and community. For example, the school participated in the 2019 Fitness Expo to promote healthy living among students. During the COVID-19 pandemic students’ participation in culture online was encouraged for Amerindian Heritage Month, celebrated in September. The Nursery level students took social media by storm with their cute, intelligent presentations celebrating the Amerindian culture. Camille’s Academy is obviously a standout, especially during the current pandemic, and the plan is to become a model school in Guyana and the Caribbean region. But the growth and achievements envisaged would not have been possible if it weren’t for the support of a business coach. Often times when we build and nurture something, it’s hard to let it go. But sometimes we have to make tough decisions for the good of the business rather than our ego and emotions. Surrendering to the guidance of a Business Coach was the best decision Deokie took.

Why choose to have a business coach? The charismatic Educator noted that despite having an MBA, she wanted the practical business support from someone who would also hold her accountable. ActionCOACH has proven to be a blessing, she opined. “The things we accomplished in a short period of time – growth, systemizing the business, time management, goal setting, working towards ISO certification – justify the partnership with ActionCOACH,” Deokie pointed out excitedly. When the pandemic hit Guyana around March 2020, like many other business owners, Deokie was worried about how she will survive. But the intellectual capacity and networking ActionCOACH brought to the table, was the game-changer in these troubling times. “With business support from ActionCOACH we were able to achieve in one year what we had planned for three years – in spite of the pandemic,” she said in amazement.

Deokie is confident that the budding Oil and Gas industry will create lots of opportunities for the economy as well as the education sector as institutions move towards providing training in Oil and Gas and meeting the general education needs of a growing and diverse population. Camille’s Academy is working tirelessly to become ISO certified in the near future, thereby creating history as the first school locally to be dubbed ISO compliant. What a long way she has come from that garage!