Reverend Lebrun as Pedagogue (1815-1846)

May 1814, Reverend Jean Lebrun arrived in Mauritius at the age of twenty-five after completing his three-year training as a missionary at the London Missionary Society (LMS) Training Academy of Gosport, in the South of England. He had courses in theology and pedagogy, as the main motto of all missionary societies was “Preach and Teach “. He was lectured by Dr Bogue, an Edinburgh trained linguist, in Malagasy and was able to perfect his French. All missionary societies preferred the use of the mother tongue for evangelization work. Initially it seems that the LMS wanted Lebrun to practice in Madagascar.
At the Academy, Lebrun was exposed to the newest method of teaching, namely the monitorial system whereby a large number of pupils could be taught. Basically the teacher had to choose the most gifted pupils - the monitors, and these would peer teach the others. The system was observed by chaplain Andrew Bell in Madras in 1789 and later on in 1798, Joseph Lancaster developed a Manual on the Monitorial system for the use of the Church Missionary Society’s (CMS) training academy based at Borough Road, Southwark.
 From reports sent by Lebrun to LMS (kept at LMS’ headquarter  at Livingstone House, London and SOAS, London University), we gather that he  preached, catechized, taught reading and writing and engaged in religious instruction. He held prayer meetings and run Sunday schools. Prior to the abolition of slavery in 1835,he opened day schools for the free population of colour as they were mostly available in Port Louis. He ran halftime schools for those slaves who were released by their masters-mostly British planters. During the pre-emancipation period, the primary thrust of Lebrun’s mission was the coloured. After abolition as he was appointed superintendent of the Mico Charity schools to implement the Negro Education Grant in Mauritius, his concerns shifted towards the apprentices. To circumvent the fact that some colonies were mainly Catholic like Mauritius, Trinidad and others, the imperial government revived the defunct Mico Charity of 1670 to channel the fund from the grant for ‘educating’ the liberated slaves. It must be noted that other slave colonies received additional funding from the charity.
The monitorial system was the preferred method of teaching used by Lebrun. As the numbers were few, the result was ‘satisfactory’. It could well be that Victor Forget, Jean Baptiste Courtois and L.Rozin to whom Lebrun entrusted the running of schools in the rural areas, were brilliant monitors.
Lebrun and his associates, specially de Joux, who replaced him as superintendent, were not impervious to new ideas in pedagogy. They adapted Dr. Stow’s training system which focused ‘not merely to the head of the child but the whole man’ (Curtis 1963) modeled after Pestalozzi’s work. Lebrun had recorded the excellent work of the Presbyterian teacher Clark.G on “object and nature study’. Clark was to become famous for the first collection of dodo bones.
 Lebrun had to face the problems of textbooks. Under the Negro Education Grant, the methods of teaching would be based on ‘the comprehensive principles’ adopted by the British and Foreign School Society (BFSC) for Ireland; in other words there would be no catechism during teaching and the ‘neutral ‘tracts of the BFSC would be used, which advocated reading, writing and arithmetic. He had to conform to the demand of the Creole society marked by great religious diversity and rivalry. In colonial Mauritius, the issue of denominationalism was a vexed one. Initially he advertised for textbooks and other reading materials from Britain through Thomas, the Protector of Slaves. But Lebrun could not escape criticisms both from the Anglicans and Catholics. Literacy was packaged in moral and religious wrappings - most of the textbooks or readers contained materials from the Bible. The missionaries saw Christian tenets as a prerequisite for freedom. Hence, teachers in the Mico schools indulged in preaching with the objective of converting the ex-slaves. After 1840, discontent in the Catholic ranks became more vociferous as the Mico Charity schools continued to expand its work, “all the while basing its instruction on scripture”. These feelings together with the “internecine difficulties”, which the good reverend had with the Anglican clergy, led to his replacement by de Joux.
Lebrun was also our first curriculum developer. He felt there was a need for educational materials to supplement English based ones. Initially he wanted to produce materials in Malagasy using the mother tongue of the slave population. He was discouraged by Governor Nicolay and so, on the printing press at Piton he produced some “premiers”.
In sum, Reverend Lebrun and his associates taught the free people of colour and the ex-slaves to pray and to read. They did not consciously seek “to subvert the established order” in other words the education provided was not for social change. According to Blue Book statistics, the number attending the schools run by Lebrun was rather low with a predominance of females. Lebrun has been called “the apostle of free education” by Uttam Bissoondoyal. Education was  an integral part of Lebrun’s mission.
NB. There is a good collection of Lebrun’s papers on microfilm, I presume from SOAS, at the city hall library of Port Louis.


Hello I am always interested to hear of any records relating to Jean Le Brun and his coleage David Jones since they both married to sisters of my 3rd Great Grand Mother Josephine Elizabeth Mabille The Mabille's who were domiciled in The Isle De France 1810 (later Mauritius) The Mabille's originally from Nord France arrived in Mauritisus 1791 ....thank you Jill Kirby

Vie du reverend Jean Le Brun par E. Vanmeerbeck, 1865