Glaring Cases from Two Schools (Now One Co-educational) from Guwahati, Assam, India
(Shankar Chatterjee, Hyderabad)
School is the basic foundation of knowledge being imparted to a child. It gives a chance to the children to acquire knowledge in various fields of education, such as people, literature, history, mathematics, politics, and other numerous subjects. According to UNICEF (www.unicef.org/education), “A child’s right to education entails the right to learn. Yet, for too many children across the globe, schooling does not lead to learning. Over 600 million children and adolescents worldwide are unable to attain minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics, even though two-thirds of them are in school. For out-of-school children, foundational skills in literacy and numeracy are further from grasp. This learning crisis – the rift between the levels of learning children receive and those they, their communities, and entire economies need – hit a global scale even before the COVID-19 pandemic brought education systems to a halt. Around the world, children are deprived of education and learning for various reasons. Poverty remains one of the most obstinate barriers. ……..Some two-thirds of the world’s school-aged children do not have internet connections in their homes, restricting their opportunities to further their learning and skills development. Without quality education, children face considerable barriers to employment and earning potential later in life”. In this article, some great personalities in various fields are mentioned from two prestigious schools of Guwahati. The two schools are – Bengali Higher Secondary School (only for boys) and Bengali Girls’ High School (only for girls).
In the month of May 2022, both have been merged into one and rechristened as Bengali Higher Secondary School (BHSS, Co-education). It is pertinent to mention that in those days the name of the boys’ 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 High School, and later on to Bengali Higher Secondary School.
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. Anyway, Bengali 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. As mentioned already, in May 2022, both have been merged into one and rechristened as Bengali Higher Secondary School (BHSS, Co-education).
Both schools produced many great personalities and stalwarts in various fields – education. literacy, games, sports, music, and other curricular activities. Kulada Kumar Bhattacharjee, a student of the school and still alive, is credited with ushering in a new wave in the world of theatre through the incorporation of professional and modern techniques, he can rightfully be considered a doyen as far as Assamese theatre is concerned. One of the first artists to have taken professional training in stage, film, and television abroad in London, he has tremendously worked for the development of Assamese theatre as a whole. His immense contributions can be gauged from the fact that he had spearheaded Assamese theatre into a national movement when he launched the Asom Jatiya Natyasala Andolan Samiti in the mid-sixties. He was fluent in Assamese, Bengali and English, in addition to a few other languages. Another great name is Dr. Amalendu Guha, an eminent historian, and literature in India was a student at Bengali Higher Secondary School. He was admitted in 1936 (first batch). Dr. Guha was mostly known as a historian in mainland India, but his contributions and presence in the field of poetry and literature are also immense. Among his many other writings in Assamese and Bengali, his incisive travelogue on Afghanistan Afghantistanot Ebhumuki (A Glance into Afghanistan, 1961) is considered to be one of the classics in Assamese travel writing, which has also been translated and published in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada. In those days, many of his classmates, later on, were famous in their own fields. A few names may be mentioned here – Hirnmoy Ganguly popularly known as Hena Ganguly, a renowned social activist, Mohon Lal Mukherjee, Gobinda Lal Roy, Kiranmay Lahiri, Nirmal Mukherjee, Monoranjan Banerjee ( a renowned footballer in India in those days), Gopal Sen, Dhurba Gupta, Pradeep Chandra Pal, Santi Ganguly, Sachindra Mohan Dey Sarkar, and others. Among the top business personalities who were students of the school but whose mother tongue was Hindi were Gaurishankar Himatsinka, Shanti Lal Jain, Radhakrishna Sikaria, and others. In those days, 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 eighth rank in Matric (1952), Sridhan Roy (rank ten, 1954, Matric), Sankar Ghosh fifth in Matric(1961), Promode Dey second in HSSLC (1974, in those days Higher Secondary), Rajat Chakraborty eight in High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC, 1982), Sujit Basu, Ashish Bose, and many others. Anup Ghatak was an Indian cricketer who played for Assam between 1963 and 1977. He was the first player to take 100 wickets for Assam in first-class in Ranji Trophy. He has passed away long ago.
In other areas also many names who are still alive are Padma Shri Ajay Dutta (the only Padma Shri awardee of the school), a renowned Social Activist; Pulak Banerjee a distinguished musical personality, still a popular name in the music world in Assam; Salil Sen Gupta played for Assam in the Santosh Trophy football in 1973.
Many great personalities also were from Bengali Girls’ High School. Mita Sinha Roy, a famous table tennis player of India, is the school’s product. She at the age of 10 years (in 1977) played at the sub-junior national level representing the Assam Table Tennis team after that junior state team, and from 1981 to 1987 represented the senior Assam National Table Tennis in all India Championship meet. It is pertinent to mention that Assam was the champion in team events in 1987 because of her. Also, Assam was the champion in the doubles national meet in 1987. In 1980, she represented India in the Fifth Asian Table Tennis Championship and the Indian team entered the quarter-final. Another name from Girls’ school is Urmi Dey Purkayastha who was a brilliant student and placed within 10 in High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC)exam. Like many other talented students, she has settled now in the USA.
Anyway, in the first year when the BHSS (meant for boys) started i.e., in 1936 the total number of students was 404, and presently total strength is 180 in spite of Higher Secondary and the merging of boys’ and girls’ schools. Hope in the coming years more and more students will join this prestigious co-educational institution.
(I offer my grateful thanks to Dr. Saibal Sen Gupta (former Principal of Arya Vidyapeeth College, Guwahati, and an alumnus of the BHSS for providing me with the necessary information and from time to time inspiring me to complete the article.)
(Author is former Professor & Head (CPME),NIRD & PR ( Govt. of India), Hyderabad)