Wednesday, 22 February 2017

First school to teach English to the Indians in India!!

St. Peter'sSchool, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. the

There is no denying of the fact that in the 18th century India, in the absence of a proper educational policy in the early period of colonialism, it was the  Christian Missionaries, as elsewhere in India, took upon themselves the task of imparting the values of western oriented educational system to the oppressed natives and others. The poor  had no access to the education. Traditional Indian education was based on Gurukulam - Guru -Syshya system (guru means teacher/spiritual guide; syshya means disciples/ student). It was on one-to-one-basis and it was more or less a residential system of education . A Guru or a group of Gurus may have many disciples. Though Gurukula system was effective, it was available to the higher and middle class caste Hindus and the poor were excluded.. The western missionaries focused on this veritable handicap in traditional Indian system and made up their mind  to make basic education available to the poor so that they could  progress in the society. Thus, the Jesuits became the pioneers of western English Education in South India. 

 The close association of religion and education has been a common scenario in India for a pretty long time and it has some positive elements, one being  the promotion of secularism. Though historians view that the missionary policy in the colonial period was mainly focused on  proselytism or conversion, but their  pioneering effort in the  early growth of printing technology, literature in vernacular, education, local  culture (Tamil Telugu, etc), its society and religion etc., overshadowed their evangelical work. The Protestant missionaries were the pioneers, in particular, in the Tamil Desam and they  learned the local languages to communicate with the locals. They also realized the languages spoken in India were far advanced and rich in literature. 

Their writings  also covered many negative elements in the traditional Hindu society such as Sati, Devadasi system, child marriages and they created an awareness about their bad impact on the society among the people. Their criticism of age old Indian transitional system also made the people think about the evils in the colonialism as well.  In a way the missionaries' teachings in vernacular and English played a vital role in bringing about the emergence of liberal thoughts, fundamental freedom, human rights, rationalistic thinking and criticism of ruling classes.  Both the rich and the poor were the beneficiaries. In the later part of colonialism, the English language brought the educated people of different region on one platform when they started the freedom movement against the British.

 The western system of education was introduced earlier in the  erstwhile  state of Travancore (now in Kerala), particularly, in the southern part that now forms part of   Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and the Maratha kingdom of Tanjore (Delta district of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu) after its first introduction in Madras.  Like Rev. William Tobias RingleTaube (born 1770 --? ), a Protestant Missionary from Germany, who was a pioneer in the introduction of   English education in Travancore (1806), in the delta region of present day Tamil Nadu, the missionaries of the Danish mission at Tharangampadi (Tranquebar, Nagapatnam district))  founded by  Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (10 July 1682 – 23 February 1719),  a member of the Lutheran clergy played a vital role  in promoting  and motivating western education without clashing with the local culture and languages. Ziegenbalg  was the first Protestant missionary to India and arrived in Tranquebar in July 1706. He was also the first  to introduce the printing press to print evangelical work as well as vernacular works in India. With the introduction of education, Protestant mission progressively showed their leaning from moral to ideological, from ideological to political reasoning. The credit goes to  Rev. Frederick C. Schwartz (1726–1798), a German Lutheran missionary to India who came to Tiruchi in 1761 and founded schools and  churches between 1772 and  1790 with support from the Tanjore Maratha Maharajah and also from the Nawab of Arcot.The Martha ruler was of great help to  Rev. Schwartz as he was close to him.
Rev. Frederick C. Schwartz
In the Delta region of Thanjavur and part Tiruchirapalli, there innumerable Christian schools and colleges and this region has been a center of education for centuries.The Christian schools and colleges were founded by the Protestant Missionaries initially without any help whatsoever from the British rulers. The proxy government of the Crown under the East India Company paid least attention to  education of natives at that time. The local Maharajahs were of great help to the missionaries by way of giving them land and sometimes money, besides permission to start educational institutions in the kingdom. This way, the missionaries eliminated the illiteracy among the poor by visiting nooks and corners.  without any fear, for the local rulers had friendly terms with them. Invariably, the Hindu Maharajahs were secular in their outlook and also encouraged the Muslims saints in their work.
The famous St. Peter's Higher Secondary School in Thanjvur was founded by Rev. Frederick C. Schwartz , a missionary from Germany. He had close link with the Danish Mission at Tranquebar. The school is presently located on the North Main Road and the classes are also held in an old palace building (Annex) within the Thanjavur Palace complex. The Society for the Propagation of Gospel (SPG) that was started with support from the British King, in 1854, had as many as 186 schools, and most of them were in  the districts of Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Madurai. Rev.  Schwartz had  a close contact with the then Maratha ruler Thulaja Maharaja. Later the missionary became  became a mentor to the successive ruler Maharajah Serfoji.  Rev. Schwartz with help from the Maratha ruler, started a provisional school in 1874  on the outskirts of Tanjore (Thanjavur) town called Maharnombu Chavadi; it was the precursor to the present St. Peter's school. The Maratha king allotted lands and, surprisingly, the British rulers gave some grants for the school.The school was later shifted to the present location  on the North Main street near the North Palace gate; this area then was known as Vediyapuram .  Maharnombu Chavadi and Karanthattangudi branches do not exist now.

A milestone in this school's history is
the world's first Interact Club, the junior wing of the Rotary Club in schools, came up here in 1962. This school has taken the honor of being the first one in India to teach English to the Indians. Yet another distinction the school should be proud of is the fact that Rev G. U. Pope served in this school for some time. As you may recall Rev. Pope was a scholar in Tamil and had translated the great work of Thirukkural  written by Thruvalluvar (who lived several centuries ago  into English. The 1330 couplets in Tamil are packed with teachings that cover the numerous aspects of  of life - philosophy, religion, psychology, morality, senses, king-wood,  etc., The school has a spacious ground called Huzur Mahal garden, a private garden of the Maratha  kings adjacent to the annex building. In 1924, it was taken on a long lease to use it for playground. Once, the ground used To be the  venue of Cricket matches, Foot ball matches and even National Boxing competitions. Famous Wrestlers like Tara Singh, King Kong and Black demon (Kaarum Bootham), et al visited this ground in the 1950s and 1960s. The ground was used by the circus companies in the 1950s an 1960s. The play ground presently is not well kept and trespassing by motorbike riders  from the near-by Bazaar street is an eyesore. In 1864it got the status of a second grade college, however,  because of lack of funds the college could not function beyond 1906. 

St. John's Vestry Anglo Higher Secondary School (founded in 1763 adjacent to St.John's Church), St. Joseph High school and College, Tiruchi Central bus stand owe their origin to the Christian Missionaries, in particular, Rev. Schwartz. The Angelo Indian school, one of the oldest institutions in India  was built for the British soldiers' children.

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) (now named the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) was organized by Rev. Dr. Thomas Bray under a charter from King William III in 1701 to establish SPG as an organization authorized to send priests and schoolteachers to America to minister to the colonists and to “take the message of the gospel to the slaves and native Americans.

The SPG quickly expanded into the West Indies, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and West Africa, and in the 19th century into India and South Africa.

After 1825,  the SPG accepted responsibility for the Danish and English missions in Tamil Nadu, as well as conducting its own work elsewhere in India.