Guwahati earlier spelled as Gauhati is one of the popular cities of India located in the beautiful part of North-East India. The mighty perennial river the Brahmaputra has passed from the iconic City. In addition, the Nilachal Hill, the Basishtha Ashram, Umananda, etc. portray the pristine beauty of the place. The famous Maa Kamakhya temple located on the top of Nilachal Hill is not only a spiritual place but a scenic place to visit. Further, in the city and its vicinity many temples, churches, mosques, gurudwaras, and Jain temples are located which bear testimony to the historical importance of the city.
The prestigious Cotton College (established in 1901) presently Cotton University is one of the most famous educational institutions in the country. Also, two renowned schools along with some others have brought glory to the city. The two schools are – Bengali Boys’ Higher Secondary School and Bengali Girls’ High School. In the month of May 2022, both have been merged into one and rechristened as Bengali Higher Secondary School (BHSS, Co-education). Also, there were two separate primary schools on the campus Boys’ school and Girls’ school separately established many years ago. Anyway, Bengali Boys’ Higher Secondary School was established on April 28, 1936, and on the other hand, Bengali Girls’ High School was set up on March 2, 1954. Both are located in the prime location of Guwahati viz. Paltan Bazar.
It is pertinent to mention that both schools before the merger produced many great personalities and stalwarts in various fields – education. literacy, games, sports, music, and other curricular activities. Dr. Amalendu Guha, an eminent historian, and literature in India was a student at Bengali Boys’ Higher Secondary School. He was admitted in 1936 (first batch). In those days, many of his classmates, later on, were famous in their own fields. A few names may be mentioned here – Hena Ganguly, Gobinda Lal Roy, Kiranmay Lahiri, Nirmal Mukherjee, Gopal Sen, Dhurba Gupta, Pradeep Chandra Pal, Santi Ganguly, Sachindra Mohan Dey Sarkar, and others. In those, the school was under Calcutta University, and in 1948 when the school came under the umbrella of Gauhati University, the student who stood first in the entire Assam was Indrajeet Chatterjee. After that many brilliant students passed out from the school. Some of the names are – Gurudas Chatterjee, Sridhan Roy, Sujit Basu, Ashish Bose, and many others. Also, it is pertinent to mention that in those days the name of the school was Silver Jubilee. Anglo-Bengali High School, because King George V completed his tenure of 25 years reign in England and coincided with the same Silver Jubilee, was prefixed. And after independence, the name of the school was changed to Bengali Boys High School, and later on to Higher Secondary. Anyway, when the Anglo-Bengali school was established two great educationists namely Nalini Bhusan Das Gupta ( a great writer) and Pulin Bihari Ghosh were selected as headmaster and assistant headmaster respectively. Also, the teachers were highly qualified and erudite scholars. In March 1937, Kabindra Nath Das was selected as a headmaster who brilliantly served the school up to 1948. During his tenure Ashwin Chakraborty, Ramesh Chanda Dutta, Santosh Sen Gupta, and Shiba Prasad Ghosh were recruited as teachers who were brilliant teachers and cordial with the students as I had the opportunity to learn from many of them while I was a student of the school from primary to 1973. Kabindra Nath Das in addition to discharging his duty as the headmaster took the initiative to set up a cooperative society under the banner of “Silver Jubilee Anglo Bengali High School Thrift and Credit Society”. Also, he introduced the “Running Cup” in badminton (doubles), and as a cultural activity, drama, and recitation were introduced by him.
It is heartening to mention that many people contributed to the construction of the school buildings. It was estimated that Rs. 17,000.00 would be collected from different sources (1935) but the amount was much higher than the estimate. In this regard, the names of some people may be mentioned as received from different sources who contributed for the development of the school. They are Rai Bahadur Kalicharan Sen, Rai Bahadur Mahendra Mohan Lahiri, Rai Bahadur P.G. Mukherjee, Jogesh Chandra Sen, Upendra Nath Sen, Khan Sahib Eda Khan, and many others. During that period, some professors of Cotton College donated in 12 installments their one month’s salary, Also Jogesh Chandra Sen nephew of Rai Bahadur Kalicharan Sen till his death associated with the school and physically and monetarily helped the development of the school.
Regarding the construction issue of the school (1935-36), a few lines may be mentioned here. The construction of Silver Jubilee Anglo-Bengali High School was given to the contractor Khan Sahib Eda Khan who completed the school within a stipulated time as a sequel school building that could be inaugurated in 1936. It is pertinent to mention that the foundation stone was laid by then Governor Sir Michel Keen in 1935 and later on Mr. Small, Director of Public Instruction (DPI) inaugurated the school. In the first-year total students were 404 – 363 Bengali speaking, 26 Hindi speaking, seven Manipuri, three Nepali, four Punjabi, and one Tamil. Of the total 404 students, 20 were Muslim students also. Anyway, it is evident that not only Bengali-speaking students were admitted but students of other languages got admission to the school in those days.
Also, various sources reveal the fact that from the start of school, many students got first division and the percentage of passed was hovering around 75, which was a great achievement in those days as some other schools in the area could not excel like Anglo Bengali / Bengali High School. And from time-to-time students of Bengali Higher Secondary School did excellent results in the Board examination in different years. But after establishing English medium schools in Guwahati in recent times many guardians prefer to send their children to English medium for different reasons inter alia of which is job prospects so students’ strength came down. For instance, in the year 2016 in the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC exam), the total number of students who appeared was 18, and of them, the first division got three, six were placed in the second division, and eight secured third division.
About the past history of Boys’ School, it may be mentioned that during the 1960s from class VIII (eighth), students were allotted science and arts streams which continued up to 1973, and a pass certificate was given under the umbrella of Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate and after that High School (10th Standard) and +2 i.e., Higher Secondary, two years started which till date is continuing (10 +2 system). On the other hand, Bengali Girls’ High School from its inception continued as a high school (up to 10th standard).
Results of Girls’ High School and Boys’ Higher Secondary School:
For the benefit of the readers, a few statistics about the Girls’ school are presented here. In 2019, only 10 girls’ students appeared in the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examination. No one got the first division but nine passed out in the second division and one was placed in the third division with a 100 percent pass. In 2020, like 2019, 10 students appeared – two first division, four-second division, and two third division with 80 percent pass. In 2021, because of COVID-19 based on the test results of the school, all the students passed as per the direction of the State Government. In 2022, only nine students appeared of which five got first division, three – second division, and one third division indicating 100 percent pass. It is pertinent to mention that some students got letter marks and star marks. But the other side of the coin is that 10 -10 students appeared and then nine students appeared mean low in absolute numbers and a matter of concern.
In the case of Boys’ school results are in two parts- one is High School Leaving Certificate Examination (HSLC) and the other one Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate Examination (HSSLC). The High School results of Boys’ School for three years reveal that in 2020, 2021, and 2022, 100 percent of students passed (around 20 students each year appeared). The results of the Higher Secondary School Leaving Certificate examinations for the year 2020 reveal the fact 37 percent passed in the arts stream – two in the first division, three in the second division, and 18 in the third division. And in the science stream out of a total of nine students, three got first division, and six secured second division. In the year 2021, in the arts stream, 94 percent of students passed – first division three, second division 13, and third division 26. And in the science stream, only two students were there and both got first division. In the year 2022, in the arts stream percentage of pass was 63, first division one, second division seven, and third division nine. Against this backdrop, no students appeared in the science stream. It is evident from the data that number of students was scaling down year by year in both schools.
It has already been mentioned that both Boys’ and Girls’ schools have been merged in May 2022 and the alumni of both schools have been trying to develop the infrastructure of the school by renovating dilapidated classrooms and already introduced a school bus to bring more students from far-flung areas by hiring a school bus on rent basis at the cost of Rs 55,000.00 per month. On April 10, 2023, the school bus service has been introduced. And also, 16 computers have been purchased for the students for skill development looking at the job market. And an attractive SMART kitchen has been constructed in the school for Mid-day Meal Scheme. Presently (as of May 12, 2023, around 100 alumni both males and females contributed towards the development of the school mainly for infrastructure, etc. Also, a few well-wishers of the school donated to the development of the school.
As of April 2023, there were 48 teachers in the school (presently one school as mentioned already) for 180 students from class 1 to class 12, which is not a good number because in 1936 when the school was established total number of students were 404 but instead of going up strength has come down in spite of merging two schools. Hope after the merger of both boys’ and girls’ schools in May 2022 the situation will greatly improve.
(During the course of writing this article many helped me by providing the necessary information and data. So, I offer my grateful thanks to all of them. Anyway, two names I wish to mention here – Dr. Saibal Sen Gupta (former Principal of Arya Vidyapeeth College, Guwahati, and an alumnus of the Boys’ School) and Mrs. Nazrana Rahman Hazarika (Principal of the present Bengali Higher Secondary School).
Prof Shankar Chatterjee, Hyderabad
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