The Hall of Fame for Academic Excellence at the Couva East Secondary School.

With 109 scholarships between 1997-2020, Couva East Secondary reckons it should be in the conversation of this country’s premier secondary school institutions.

“We are in fact a first-choice school, we have a lot of students putting Couva East as their first choice,” said principal Denise Mungal-Gosyne beaming with pride.

She’s proud because her school was able to add four more scholarships to its list this year, even with a reduced national allocation.

The school of 900 students just off the Couva Main Road was only established in 1963 as a pilot project by the Government to compete with the so-called, prestigious institutions run by religious boards. And while Government schools have been criticised for underperforming, the same cannot be said about Couva East.

“Our pass rate at the CSEC level is roughly 98 per cent with five subjects,” Mungal-Gosyne added to reinforce that her school’s success is not only rooted in the scholarships won.

So, what’s their secret?

Well, Mungal-Gosyne believes it all comes down to discipline, togetherness and dedication.

“100 per cent of our teachers give of their personal time and resources; our students are motivated and we adhere to a high standard of discipline. Inside of here it’s like a family atmosphere, everybody is focused on guiding these students and maintaining this discipline. It does not matter who it is, everyone contributes one way or the other. Down to our security officers know every student by face and they will let us know what is going on,” she said.

The principal also hailed the school’s Parent Teacher’s Association, which she said contributes financially to the school’s operations. But both teachers and the principal are not resting on their laurels.

With an average of six scholarships per year, they are hungry for more. But to keep their best and brightest, Mungal-Gosyne believes more investment is needed by the State.

“If I could be granted a wish it would be that we could get an auditorium and another building and I’m confident the Minister of Education would assist in that area because considering the different categories in scholarships we would like to expand, to increase our options, but we need that extra space.”

Without that expansion, the principal worries that they will continue to suffer from brain drain.

“When some of our students cannot get the combination that they want, other schools easily take them because they know our students have a strong background.”

Agricultural Science is at the top of their expansion wish list.

The school’s mission is to foster well-rounded students boasting of accomplishments in drama and sports. Students are also encouraged to do community service, exemplifying the school’s motto ‘Terras Irradient’ meaning, lighting the world.

And their presence and impact are not lost on Couva residents. In fact, Guardian Media thought to ask some of them along the Couva Main Road which school they thought was the top-performing Government Secondary School in the country.

And the three people asked said, “Couva East boy, Mod Sec nah.”

“You have the Couva Sec right there.”

“The one by the courthouse there, they does get good scholarships.”