JENKINS THOMAS JOSEPH: An african educator for the non-white population in Mauritius

As a humanitarian, Governor Farquhar was concerned about the provision of some form of moral and religious education for the slave population of Port Louis. He realized that Reverend Lebrun had attracted mostly the gens de couleur - the free coloured population - to his school at St George Street. The two other small schools in the Plaine Verte area failed to entice the slave population. The low number of slaves in attendance must have influenced Farquhar in his request for another educator form the missionary societies in Britain in the 1820s. The Governor approached the British Foreign School Society (BFSS) which run non-sectarian schools using the Lancasterian system. We do not know whether he specifically requested for a person of African origin. In November 1821, Thomas Joseph Jenkins, a native of Sierra Leone in West Africa, reached Mauritius. He had graduated from the teacher training college set up by Joseph Lancaster known as Borough Road College, Southark of east London. According to Sherwood, M (2008) there were African teachers teaching in British schools in the nineteenth century.
Thomas Jenkins was the son of a notorious and wealthy African slave raider and trader of Sierra Leone (Sherwood. M. 2008), who was known as Jenkins by the slavers. And he had very intimate connections with several British slave traders based at the port of Liverpool. It seemed that initially Thomas was to be admitted in one of the boarding schools of Liverpool, where there were already a fair number of African youths. Jenkins. T travelled on board the slave ship Prudence under the command of Captain Swanson who was going to act as his tutor. However, Swanson fell ill before he could arrange for the young Jenkins schooling, and entrusted him to his relatives in Teviothead, near Hawick in south Scotland, just across the border.
  He seemed to have been neglected in an age when the founder of the Anthropological Society, James Hunt believed that ‘Negroes were a different race incapable of mental or social advance’ (quoted by Sherwood. M). Adams H. G (1954) briefly traced his childhood days and described how young Jenkins worked as a ‘cow-herd’ and, was apprenticed to a Mr. Laidlaw of Falmash as ‘a jack of all trades’ on his farm. Mr. Laidlaw was impressed by the determination and resilience of Jenkins for getting educated. He found him reading in the loft and practising writing on a slate. Laidlaw enrolled him in one of the evening school where he was reported of having made ‘rapid progress’. He was lent books to be able to learn on his own. In his early teens, he used to walk from Teviothead to Hawick, a distance of seven miles every Saturday ‘to make an exhibition to the master of an academy’.
 Jenkins was obviously ambitious as he managed to save some of his wages to attend lectures at Edinburg University in Latin, Greek and Mathematics. The lecturers ‘looked on him as a wonder’ and two of them refused to take a fee. He seemed to have declined the offer of an Edinburg merchant for funding his education.
 In his late teens, he felt that he was educated enough to apply for the job of teacher at Teviothead’s school. He was warmly recommended by Revd James Arkle of Hawick who knew ‘Thomas Jenkins from his infancy. I have known his diligence to acquire knowledge’. The Reverend furthermore attested that he was ‘examined in the branches of English reading, Grammar, Arithmetic and the branches connected therewith (And) unanimously elected.’ However the Presbytery refused to employ an African. But he was fortunate as the Duke of Buccleuch offered to open a school for Jenkins and paid him a handsome salary. He was reported to be ‘an excellent teacher immensely favourite with both parents and children’ (quoted by Sherwood. M)
Developing the potential  of  individuals
In 1817, Jenkins felt that he needed to professionalize himself as a teacher after his successful initial teaching experience at the Teviothead village school. As a Dissenter he registered himself at the Borough Road College, Southark, the teacher training college sponsored by the British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) under Joseph Lancaster, the initiator of the monitorial system. Lancaster was the foremost educationist of the day as he perfected the monitorial system, which consisted of classroom management and organization and, teaching methods for the teaching of a large number of scholars by their peers or monitors. Furthermore Lancaster was against ‘coercion, the most disgusting and uncouth word in British vocabulary’ (Lancaster dixit) and he believed in developing the potential of individuals. Although Lancaster had left the institution when Jenkins joined in, his ideals survived. While in training, Jenkins helped the BFSS found a school in Plimlico, near Victoria station, London where he did his teaching practice. He graduated in January 1821 and the BFSS proposed to him the teaching post offered by Farquhar and in August he embarked for Mauritius.
  At the age of 24, Jenkins reached Mauritius on board the Columbia on the 26 November 1821. He travelled with Rafety, a Malagasy prince whom he taught. It was common for converts from the Malagasy noble class to travel to Britain for further experiences in Protestant doctrines. (Larson, Pier 2009). They transited in Mauritius. Furthermore the British were engaged in an aggressive exercise of proselytization and colonization of Madagascar from Mauritius. Farquhar encouraged members of the ruling class to come to Mauritius for British education- a stealthy form of cultural imperialism. Farquhar readily realized the teaching abilities of Jenkins and, he entrusted him with the education of the young Malagasy prince, Hafoumaina and other dignitaries. Jenkins seemed to have established a network for Malagasy converts in Port Louis.
 Governor Farquhar realized that Government involvement was needed for the provision of basic education. In 1823, he opened the first free government school in the western part of Port Louis for the non white population following the problems Lebrun was facing from the Whites and the Anglicans. He chose Thomas Jenkins to run this non –denominational school using the Lancasterian system. It was called a Model School in other words Jenkins would also train ‘monitors’. According to Blue Books records, this western suburb school progressed well- the number of pupils kept on increasing and Mrs. Allan was recruited to take care of the girls section. In the 1830’s an Infant school under the care of Miss Reeves was opened on the same premises. These schools could not be funded from the Negro Education Grant of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1835. Under the impulse of Thomas Jenkins, Government increased its financial commitment in the field of education. By 1840, five schools were funded by the state and, the Comité Instruction Publique advised for further development. The Comité was the supervising body for all Government schools [i] ; it monitored both the curriculum and the teachers. In 1843, the Comité interdicted Thomas Jenkins for living ‘en concubinage’, but after investigation he was reinstated. He seemed to have married afterwards, as the Blue Book of 1846 recorded a Mrs. Augustine Laurencia Jenkins working alongside him at the Western Suburb school.
  Thomas Jenkins was involved in some very progressive educational development in nineteenth century Mauritius. He was instrumental in the employment of a Mr. Tuckwell as a «teacher of vocal music in the town schools» in 1846. In 1855, Honourable Bledingfield, member of the Education Committee, admonished Jenkins and Mr. Graves of Brabant Street Free School for using ‘creole’ in their teachings. Jenkins seemed to have realized that the mother tongue should be used in teaching. He was always reported favourably by de Joux, the first inspector of Government school. Monitors trained by Thomas Jenkins were appointed in several Government schools on the island. He visited the Outer Islands and made propositions for educational provision for the resident population of the Chagos.
 The career of Thomas Joseph Jenkins, contemporary with Revd Jean Lebrun, has attracted little attention in the historiography of Mauritius apart for a note by Guy Rouillard in the Dictionary of Mauritian Biography (p. 1459). I am pretty sure that there are archival sources to be exploited further to assess the contribution of this African towards the social development of mid-nineteenth century Mauritius. His advocacy for the people of Malagasy origin has yet to be researched into - most probably in London. He died in June1859 leaving a widow, Government teacher, with four children.

Dufill. M. B New Light on the Lives of Thomas Jenkins and James Swanson. Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society. 1990
Larson, Pier. M Ocean of Letters : Language and Creolisation in an Indian Ocean Diaspora. Camb. Uni. Press 2009.
 Sherwood, Marika Black School Teachers in Britain in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Hist Educ Rchr. May 2008.
I will like to thank the staff of the National Archives, Coromandel for their help with The Blue Books and other relevant items.
Abdool Cader Kalla - Ass. Professor Mauritius Institute of Education (Retired)
Independent Researcher.
Main research interest : Social History of colonial Mauritius.

 (Philippe Sababady, ex-maître d’école, taquine la Muse depuis sa tendre jeunesse. Jamais satisfait de ses écrits, il s’entend un jour dire à la radio : «Dire séki to éna pou dire, attention  to pas dire !»  Message reçu cinq sur cinq. Il propose ce poème en marge du 180e anniversaire de l’abolition de l’esclavage et de la Black History Week.)
Brise ta carapace                         
Fuis cette prison intérieure.
Vole sur les ailes de la liberté.
Chasse les idées négatives.
Sers-toi de la puissance de ta pensée.
Demolis ces cloisons
Renverse les murs de
Laboure les champs épineux,
Minés d’injustice, de tyrannie
De haine, de vengeance.
Développe ton potentiel
Mental, physique, intellectuel.
Attelle-toi à ce dynamisme.
Ose défier les circonstances
Adverses, éprouvantes.
Epierre ces mines
Sème l’amour, la paix
La justice, le pardon.
Construis ton avenir
Sur les colonnes
De sérénité, de persévérance.
Ne rumine pas le passé
Improductif, ineffaçable.
Rêve d’un lendemain
Déploie tes voiles de patience.
Navigue vers le bonheur.
Enfante des visions riches
D’exploits, de prouesses.
Reverdir les valeurs
Les mettre en exergue :
Ton sacerdoce.
Sois courageux, intrépide.
Mène le combat contre
La déchéance morale,
Sociale, universelle.
Les gerbes de gloire
Ne sont octroyées
Qu’aux vainqueurs.
Ne sois plus esclave
Des conventions sociales
Irritantes, paralysantes.
Peau brune, peau noire
Peau jaune, peau blanche
Le soleil du succès
Brille sur le chemin
De l’homme libre, diligent,
Architecte de son destin.
 Philippe SABABADY
Janvier 2015