Thursday, 13 February 2020

French priest Fr. Ephrem de Nevers started first English medium school (1642) in India

First English school in India,Plan of Fort St.George Madras-1746  wikivisually.com
A preponderance of educated people in India have no idea whatsoever about the person who, in the by-gone era, was instrumental in introducing the earliest English education in India  for which the craze has been on the increase in the past more than  two decades.  Yet another fascinating  fact is  before the introduction  of "The English Education Act" in 1835 by the East India company rule (a proxy government for the British Crown administration), the English medium schools were introduced in South India, in particular, parts of Tamil Nadu. In 1619, though the English company had a factory in  Masulipatnam, now in Andhra,  no English school was opened there.  If you make a logical guess as to the first  founder of English school in India you will, without any hesitation, rush to the conclusion that it was by  an Englishman.  Actually, it was none other than  a Capuchin Franciscan priest and the first Christian missionary in Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu,  Fr. Ephrem de Nevers who founded the first Christian mission in Madras on June 8, 1642, and was appointed the first Prefect Apostolic of Madras Capuchin Mission.
Capuchin Franciscan priest Ephrem de Nevers/wikivisually.com
 Today, English medium  schools are mushrooming across India,  putting the native tongues like Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, etc., on the back burner. Part of the reason is way back the  English colonists successfully made their native tongue popular across the British colonies that existed in every continent in the globe. Countless MNCs give importance to working knowledge of English as the business has become global.
Coromandal coast southeast India www.sea-seek.com
The first founder of the English school in India as well as in Asia - French Capuchin priest  Fr. Ephrem de Nevers stayed in Madras for a long period  till his demise.  With permission from the English company, he opened the first English school in  Madras (Chennai) in  his priestly quarters in 1642, St. George Fort, Madras, then an early EIC 's settlement on the Coromandal coast. At that point of
old picture, Coromandal coast of India  alamy co
time the English  never thought of opening an English medium school in Madras  for the children of ever growing European community  settled there.  It is affirmed by  records that  it was the first  English School in India. Thus, unwittingly,  this hard working non-English speaking missionary Fr. Ephrem de Nevers, took the credit of  having  established  the first English school to cater to the needs of the children.  It is believed Santa Fe in 1540 was the First Christian School  founded in Goa (then a Portuguese settlement on the west coast), India and  it happened to be a Portuguese school.  
 Upon his arrival in Madras in the early stages,  he faced all kinds of mental agony and pain caused by Portuguese priests operating in the Portuguese town San Thome (a suburb of Chennai).  They were jealous of his activities  and his close rapport with the English company.  The Portuguese captured him and took him to Goa in 1649  where he faced inquisition  for two long years. Upon his release, he returned to Madras  to continue his missionary work as well as his passion - education.
Besides  first the school established on the premises of Fort St. Georges,  Fr. Ephrem   also ran  another school and taught Tamil, Portuguese and Latin to the students.  There was no racial discrimination and natives were taught various subjects along with white European settlers.  Being a learned man, his forte was his affability and care for fellow humans and this trait helped him become a successful man in the society. 
The school started by him  assumed various names over a long period and came under the influence of different people at different dates.   It became St. Mary’s European High School in 1906. After India's independence, again the name changed to  St. George’s Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School.   In 1954 the name  again changed to St. George’s School and Orphanage.
St. Georges Angelo Indian Higher Sec. school, Chennai.facebook.com
By virtue of its continuous functioning since 1715 without any break  in between, it is considered,  the oldest English medium school in  India and perhaps in  Asia.  Built on a plot of 21 acres of prime land in the heart of Chennai city (Shenoy Nagar) the  red-colored  building made of brick and lime mortar with pillared rooms, stone stairways, wooden windows and partly rusted bell is a heritage site. The amazing thing is all the odd and bygone architectural features have  remained unchanged  since its colonial era.  This  historical school's    tricentennial celebration came up in 2015 and  a Special  Postal Cover was released  in the same year on 23rd April.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephrem_de_Nevers 
http://firstenglishschoolinindia.blogspot.com/2010/12/fr-ephrem-de-nevers-ofmcapand-founder.html. 
https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2017/02/st-georges-school-chennai-oldest.html