Sep 11, 2022 News
By Shervin Belgrave
Kaieteur News – Commitment to its students’ wellbeing and academic success is the order of the day at the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) Secondary School located at Cornelia Ida, West Coast Demerara (WCD), and this has, by extension, allowed the private institution to excel consistently at the CSEC examinations.
The educational institute commonly known as “Swami School,” offers a total of 20 CSEC subjects and 21 CAPE subjects in its curriculum and at this year’s CSEC examinations, it obtained an overall pass rate of 92.19 percent. Though this is a slight decline from the 94.27 percent it had obtained last year, the school’s performance is second only to Queen’s College (QC) for students with the most CSEC grade one passes this year.
While QC boasts a total of 43 students among the top 218 in the country, the Swami School was able to produce 29. Four were among top 20 CSEC performers and one was among Guyana’s top CAPE students. It is this high success rate and the quality of education the school provides which motivates parents from all religious backgrounds and ethnic groups to enroll their children there.
Speaking with Kaieteur News on Friday, the school’s principal, Swami Aksharananda said that SVN was initially founded to cater for students of the Hindu Religious culture.
Although Guyana’s public schools cater for children from all three of the main religious groups, Swami Aksharananda is of the view that the Christian religion is still the most dominant one and those from a Hindu background would oftentimes be afraid to express themselves and uphold their culture.
“So we were motivated to create a safe space for those children. I mean I have some friends who grow up in the school system and the other children would laugh at them when they put lil oil on their skin and hair or when they would have their roti wrapped up in a piece of paper,” Aksharananda told Kaieteur News.
Many people in Guyana, the United States and other countries across the globe began donating towards the construction of the Hindu school. The school officially opened its doors on May 11, 2003 with a two- storey building that had cost the donors at that time $100M. Thirty-five students were enrolled and seven teachers were employed to ensure that they receive a quality education and ensure their academic success.
SVN registered its first batch of students to sit the CSEC exams in 2005 and they were very successful. Since then it has maintained that consistency. The school’s success, the discipline it instills and its commitment to ensure students has resulted in a growth in the school’s population and this forced it to extend its complex.
It made a $180M investment to set up two more three-storey buildings equipped with furniture and labs to house more students. Currently, there are 445 secondary school students attending the Swami School and 45 employed teachers. Not only has its founders managed to create a “safe space for Hindu students” but for everyone striving for excellence.
“So in my opinion, this school has a very safe space for anybody; we have students who are Africans, Amerindians and even students who are Christians,” Aksharananda said.
Asked what motivates parents, especially those from other religious backgrounds to send their children to a Hindu school, Aksharanda responded, “Quality of education and secondly, I believe people look for a disciplined and safe space to send their children.”
Another reason why parents trust SVN to educate their children is because of its commitment to students. One such example is its readiness for online classes when the COVID-19 pandemic had hit Guyana back in 2020. While public schools struggled to put measures in place, the Swami School was ready for online classes within a week and the reason for this, according to Aksharananda, is because it invested in enhancing its internet capabilities and took on the responsibility of equipping each teacher with a tablet and provided laptops for students who did not have. The investment paid off because the overall pass rate remained in the 90s.
SVN also has an open-door policy for students with low NGSA marks and has been working with them over the years to make sure they excel at the CSEC level. This year, according to Aksharananda, there were quite a few of those students who gained grade one passes at CSEC. One of them was a girl who entered the school with a total of 448 NGSA marks. When her CSEC results were announced, her parents were proud because she had obtained 15 grade one passes.
Apart from making such investments, SVN embraces the notion that involving parents in its school system is key in making students successful because they would get a firsthand look at their progress and shortcomings. This would allow them to work with their children at home and ensure that they continue to excel.
To involve parents, teachers and the principal would conduct one-on-one meeting with them three times a year and the school has even invested in an online portal. Students’ progress reports such as completion of homework, grades, punctuality, absence and performance are uploaded to the portal and parents can log in to view the details and recommendations for areas of improvement.
As SVN continues to follow its mantra of total commitment to the wellbeing and academic success of students, it is moving apace with plans to expand its complex to cater for primary and pre-school levels as well.
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