Thriving entrepreneur, Camille Deokie-Gorakh, is a ‘Special Person’

5/9/20219 min read

The phenomenal woman behind Camille’s Academy Inc.…

“I am an impactful leader who aspires to change as many lives as possible through the delivery of quality education and I am a firm believer that our life is a canvas, the best thing we can do is to use that canvas and create a divine masterpiece.”

By Rehanna Ramsay

If anyone had whispered into the ears of Camille Deokie-Gorakh, 24 years ago and told her that she would be at the helm of a thriving private educational institute with four branches, she would have laughed it off.

Mrs. Camille Deokie-Gorakh, the owner of Camille’s Academy Inc.

But today, this is in fact her reality as the Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the prestigious Camille’s Academy Inc.
When Kaieteur News caught up with this week’s ‘Special Person,’ she related that while her dream was always to play a significant role in the education sector, the business aspect of her career sort of spawn its way into existence.
She explained that her drive to transform the sector goes way back to her childhood days but unlike many remarkable local educators who started their careers in the public school system, Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh’s journey began in her father’s garbage at Soesdyke, East Bank Demerara (EBD), where she tutored 11 children, some of whose parents worked for her dad’s construction company.
She explained that, “I never planned on becoming 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.”
About two years after tutoring, Deokie-Gorakh registered the first private school on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD).She recalled that she was only 20 years old when she decided that she wanted to operate a learning institution in a more “structured manner”.
“I was in it for the long haul,” she added, noting that within the space of five years, her first private school, Camille’s Institute, was established with just 65 students on the register.
To date, that school, which has since been rebranded Camille‘s Academy Inc., has facilitated learning for thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to live out their own success stories.
The school has also made its mark in the education/business sector both locally and internationally.

‘Miss Camille’ tutoring a class after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Earlier this year, Deokie-Gorakh received a “Women in Business” award from the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry for demonstrating good business growth during a pandemic. It was only a few months ago that Camille’s Academy Inc. was named the winner of the ‘Best Service based company with over 10 employees’ by the US-based Business Excellence (BizX) Forum and Award for 2021.
The Director credited her team of committed teachers and professionals for the accomplishments.
Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh noted that as her business developed, she simultaneously studied and achieved a number of credentials including a Master’s in Business Administration. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Management.
In addition to her achievements on the education and business frontiers, Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh also holds an impressive professional portfolio.
She is the Deputy Chairperson of the Guyana Women Leadership Institute at the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, President of Action Invest Toastmasters Club, Peace Ambassador at Universal Peace Federation International – Guyana Chapter, Senior Advisor- Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha – East Bank Praant, Secretary of the Soesdyke Community Development Council, Founder and Chairperson of Youth Empowerment Network-GY and a member of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI’)s Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry Guyana Chapter.
She noted that of all those titles, the most endearing monikers of “wife and mother” remains among her personal favourite.
With the support of her husband, Rabbie Gorakh, Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh is able to balance her professional life as well as raise her four loving sons, Ray, 18, Ranvir,16, Rajiv, 14, and Renaud, seven.
The doting teacher and mother noted that while she has four biological sons, she counts herself as a mother to the thousands of children who attend her school.
“I count it as an honour and privilege to be able to offer guidance and provide a nurturing environment to all my students,” she shared.

In this regard, the Soesdyke, EBD native reflected on her own upbringing and the nurturing environment her parents Mr. Virjanand and Mrs. Nazreen Deokie provided for her and her four siblings.

Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh with her husband, Rabbie, and their four sons.

The couple who hailed from the Cinderella County of Essequibo had little clue that their eldest daughter would one day become a very accomplished businesswoman and an advocate for women and youth empowerment.
“My parents are my greatest teachers, to them, I owe the most gratitude, I plaudit all their efforts as they have taught me the most important lessons of life, what it means to be humble and disciplined,” she said.
Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh recalled that her parents were of modest means, “so, while some of my classmates were wearing the best brand name footwear and backpacks, my book bags were actually made by my mom… who used pieces of cloth, sew the ends together, but lovingly embroidered my initials on them.”
She said, “It taught me to be contented; I proudly wore my bag to school. After all, it represented a labour of love…”
The teacher recalled too that she was exposed to business at a very tender age.
“I was exposed to business; it was not by choice but rather circumstances. I remembered very vividly, during my primary school days, we would make fudge for my brothers and I to sell in school just to get our pocket piece. I did it with my chin held high.”
After primary school, Deokie-Gorakh said that she was awarded a place at Covent Garden Secondary but the family could not afford it.
With the help of relatives, they later decided to send the young Camille to Charlestown Government School.
She noted that this was the best decision they could have made.
“I diligently pursued my high school education and graduated within the top 10 in 1996,” Deokie-Gorakh disclosed.

Shortly after completing High School, Deokie-Gorakh joined her dad’s company where she worked during the day and tutored the neighbour’s kids in the afternoons.
What started out as a mission to help the neighbours children, soon developed into a passion for educating the nation’s children.

Camille’s Academy Inc.’s graduating class of 2020.

Then in the year 2000, with the blessings from her parents, she established the first private school on the East Bank of Demerara.
Two years later, she was married to her soul mate, Rabbie, and a year later, she experienced motherhood for the very first time.
As if to say that wasn’t enough, Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh repeated that experience three more times.
Today, she is proud to be a devoted daughter, a dedicated wife and a committed mother.
She said, “I am an impactful leader who aspires to change as many lives as possible through the delivery of quality education and I am a firm believer that our life is a canvas, the best thing we can do is to use that canvas and create a divine masterpiece”.
To date, Deokie-Gorakh’s journey, “molding the minds of our children, [spans] over two decades.”
Since opening the first private school on the East Bank of Demerara, Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh has managed to open a second branch.
She is also aiming towards opening two other branches, which were set to launch in 2020 when the pandemic rocked the country and stymied physical classroom sessions.
According to the Director, the 2020 expansion project includes smart schools at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara and at Crane, West Coast Demerara.
The schools are to be completed in time for the new school year, September 2021.
The founder revealed that added to the expansion, Camille’s Academy Inc. has been known for consistently producing above 80 percent pass rate at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination, making them the best performing private school at this examination within the Region Four district.
In 2019 and 2020, she said that Camille’s Academy secured top positions amongst Guyana’s top 50 performers for CSEC with Valedictorian, Niaomi Durga, securing 19 subjects, including 12-grade ones, seven grade twos.
Notably, there are about 1000 full-time and part-time students ranging from nursery all the way up to fifth form level, who are pursuing their studies at the Academy.
And despite the COVID-19 pandemic which caused social interactions to be prohibited, Camille’s Academy quickly adapted to the new normal, leading the charge in this fast-paced innovation by introducing their online learning platforms from nursery to high school learners.
The businesswoman noted that “The challenge with online learning, however, is that a significant number of students – about 40 percent – have no, or poor, internet connectivity.”
This hurdle, she said, “was surmounted by offering a self-study option where parents uplift worksheets and instructional videos and return same to be marked, followed by a one-on-one session with the students to review/reinforce the lessons.”
“Some teachers even opted for home visits during the pandemic to conduct assessments with students who had internet challenges, observing all COVID-19 protocols,” she said.
Outside her academic work with the Academy, 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,” she said, “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.”
In this regard, Camille’s Academy was the first school in Guyana to launch the “commit to get fit campaign” with an annual fitness challenge to promote healthy living among students.
The initiative launched in 2019, encourage the students to participate in the 2020 Caribbean Cross-fit teen challenge in February, this participation led to Camille’s Academy receiving the title “the fittest teen for Guyana in both male & female categories.
In addition, during the pandemic, Camille’s Academy hosted their annual spelling Bee, Essay & poster making (ART) competition using the virtual platform as evident from their Facebook page.
Most recently, the Easter hat making and egg painting was done virtually too. Cultural exhibitions online were also encouraged. The nursery-level pupils took social media by storm with their cute, intelligent presentations celebrating the various activities.
These practices continued monthly with various programmes including World Teacher’s Day function, Breast Cancer Awareness month, a virtual Christmas concert, Girls and Women’s conference for International Women’s Day and virtual tours.
She said, “All activities are in efforts to promote a well-balanced curriculum while allowing our children to still experience some sense of normalcy during these challenging times.”

Given her growth, Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh received a “Women in Business” award from the GCCI for demonstrating good business growth during a pandemic.
This award honours a local female business leader who has demonstrated achievement in ownership or management of a business, or who has made significant contributions to the business environment in Guyana.

Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh and her supportive team after winning the Best Service based company with over 10 employees earlier this year.

The winning individual would have demonstrated leadership in bringing about business growth and have an outstanding reputation.
In accepting the award, the businesswoman encouraged other girls and women to dream big, set smart goals and have a disciplined mindset.
“Choose to challenge yourself, seek out to influence and encourage as many women as possible, thereby creating a positive impact in this world. Focus on your goals, not your fears, fear is just our false expectations appearing real, instead, develop a positive mindset and face everything and rise,” she said.
Though it is obviously a standout especially during the current pandemic, Deokie-Gorakh said that Camille’s Academy’s ultimate 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.
Despite having an MBA, Mrs. Deokie-Gorakh wanted the practical business support from someone who would also hold her accountable. She said that in this regard, Action COACH Guyana, an empowerment, education, and business coaching organisation, has proven to be a blessing.

Camille’s Academy Inc. smart school at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara.

The new branch of the school under construction at Crane, West Coast Demerara.

When the pandemic hit Guyana around March 2020, like many other business owners, Deokie-Gorakh was worried about how the business would survive. But the intellectual capacity and networking Action COACH brought to the table, was the game-changer in these troubling times, she said.
“The things we accomplished in a short period of time – growth, systemising the business, time management, goal setting, working towards International Organisation for Standardisation [ISO] certification – justify this partnership with Action COACH. With business support from Action COACH, we were able to achieve in one year what we had planned for three years – in spite of the pandemic,” she said.
Deokie-Gorakh is confident that with the budding Oil and Gas industry, there will be lots of opportunities for the economy as well as the education sector “even as institutions move towards providing training in Oil and Gas and meeting the general education needs of a growing and diverse population.”
Toward this end, 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.
Looking at those prospects, Deokie-Gorakh said Camille’s Academy has certainly come along way and is taking on new challenges.