For yet another year, girls have dominated the top places in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exams. This year the top three also emerged from the southland, Fyzabad, Palmiste and Barrackpore. All three will take up places at the Naparima Girls’s High School, their first choice, come September. The trio are Shivanna Chatoor, 12, Guyanese-born Cameel Juman, 11, and Arielle Rambharose, 12.
In a whirlwind visit yesterday morning, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, accompanied by Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, visited each of the three schools where celebratory functions were held to personally announce the high achievers and offer congratulations and tokens. The first stop was at the Avocat Vedic Primary School, where young Shivanna was the centre of attention as the PM declared that she had topped the island in the examination.
This was followed by her visit to Grant Memorial Presbyterian School where Juman, the daughter of a medical doctor from Guyana, placed second, and final stop at the San Fernando Muslim (ASJA) School where third place student Rambharose attended. Persad-Bissessar expressed joy at this year’s results, which she said was the best since 2008/9, and lauded the excellence of the girls.
Her sentiments were echoed by Gopeesingh, who said he was very satisfied with the results, which saw the Continuous Assessment Component being included in the final results. “The percentage of students who scored above 50 per cent, 60 per cent and 90 per cent was the highest for the period 2008 to 2014,” the PM said.
Shivanna, the daughter of a Fyzabad farmer and seamstress, who overcame all odds to score the highest national mark, hugged her parents — Gaiyatri and Shevanand Chatoor — and thanked them for giving her support during one of the most difficult periods of her life. “It was a rough road but prayers and hard work always pay off,” she said excitedly after hearing she had scored 99 per cent overall. In the weeks before SEA, Shivanna said she was in tears.
“Sometimes I felt like giving up but I would always have my teacher and my parents giving me that extra push,” she said. She explained that her days began at 5 am with one hour of studying and ended at 7 pm when she would return home after a full day of class with her teacher Jyoti Bridglal-Komal and extra classes. Shivanna said her dream was to be a lawyer, inspired by her love for debating even the most controversial issues.
Her teacher described her as an obedient, humble child who organised hawan (prayers) for her classmates every Thursday. “Shivanna is hard working, disciplined and always ready to help her classmates. At times when I had to work with the children to do quizzes for school, I left her in charge of the class. She used to run my class,” Bridglal-Komal recalled. Chatoor’s father, who rears cows and plants crops for a living, said he always expected great things from his eldest daughter.
“She took her studies seriously. She is the one who likes to stay indoors. Her younger sister, Trishanna, likes the outdoors,” he said. Shevanand said it was his ritual each day to drop his daughter for extra lessons in Palmiste.