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Maj. Gen. Jenkins and Jenkins School, Cooch Behar Nirmalendu Chakraborty
Major General Francis Jenkins was the longest serving commissioner of Assam and Agent to the Governor General for the North Eastern Frontier of India as Guwahati was its headquarters. He served in this NEFA as 5th Chief Commissioner of Assam in 1828 commissioner and Agent from 1834 to 1861. He is still remembered for his versatile ability, genius and great administrator, social works and spreading education in this area including Dooars, Cooch Behar and of course North Eastern Zone.
He was born in Cornwall, UK on August 4, 1793 at the picturesque village of St. Clement. A brilliant graduate of Oxford University he left his native place Cornwall in the year 1808 and joined as an officer in the mercantile marine in October 1810 under Admiral Lord Exmouth, who later in 1811 transferred his services to the government of Lord William Bentick and inducted in the Indian military. He was injured in a war in Egypt. In 1828 he was appointed as the 5th Chief Commissioner of Assam stationed at Guwahati where he began to show his activities in different ways like business, potentiality of tea, export resources, viability and discovery of coal, oil and above all progress of education in the Eastern Zone. In 1832 along with Captain Charlton and Mr Charles Alexander Bruce, Maj. Gen Jenkins also credited as the discoverer of tea plant in Assam known as Thea Assamica. This was the great significant share of vast potentiality as a commercial commodity of International value. For which the Agricultural Society of Calcutta presented to Jenkins a Gold Medal.
As a pioneer regard to establish educational activities in this NE Zone Maj. Gen. Jenkins started to establish schools. In 1834 with his able efforts a school was established collecting subscriptions from the public and founded Guwahati Seminary, 3 rd school of such set up by the British. Now, new name was given, Guwahati Cotton Collegiate School by Sir Henry John Stademan Cotton.
Like this way on his visit to Dooars and Cooch Behar he enquired about education in the then Cooch Behar State ruled by the Maharajas of Narayan Dynasty, which was founded by the Koch Kings in the year 1510 AD. In the reign of Maharaja Narendra Narayan Maj. Gen. Jenkins apart from all administrative activities spread education in this state by his good services. In the year 1857 – the year when the University of Calcutta established and on the minority of Maharaja Narendra Narayan and with the instruction of Queen Mother Brindeswari Devi a vernacular school was established for teaching the Princess and other kinsmen of the royal family, in a thatched in the south western of Sagar Dighi. In 1859 English began to teach in this school. Few years later, the school had to shift near the stable inside the royal palace due to devastating fire damage the thatched. In 1861 when Maj. Gen. Jenkins was offered a purse by the Maharaja Narendra Narayan (1841-1863) in recognition of the good services done by Maj. Gen. Jenkins during the minority of the Maharaja. The worthy Major General actually avoided accepting reward and suggested that the money would be spent for good causes if an English school were founded with that money. Accordingly to pay honour to the Maj. Gen the school was named after him as Jenkins School. There were no tuition fees for the students till 1865-66, later a uniform of 8-Annas was fixed as tuition fees for all. In 1883 first eleven students were sent for Entrance Examination and all of them came out successfully. In 1879 a beautiful and commodious building was constructed at the eastern bank of Sagar Dighi Square (now Treasury Buildings), which was damaged by a heavy earthquake in 1897, and finally the school was housed in its present premises in 1905. Now, the school is one of the best schools in West Bengal, going to celebrate its 150 glorious years in the year 2011.
Maj. Gen. Francis Jenkins who loved Assam and its people so much that he settled down in Guwahati after his retirement and never returned to his native place in UK. He died in Guwahati of fever on August 28, 1866. He is not only remembered by the people of Assam but also people of Cooch Behar and thousands of thousands students who got their education in this school that bears his name.
-- Nirmalendu Chakraborty,
(Founder-member, Cooch Behar Heritage Society and secretary, Cooch Behar Philatelic Association),
180, Ashram Road, Cooch Behar-736101.
Mobile : 9775408172.