[John Roberts]

John Roberts was the first principal of the Raja’s Free School,in Thiruvananthapuram. This institution started by Swathi Thirunal later developed into the University College.It was the first English educational institution in Travancore. It was founded in the year 1834.
The Maharaja had occasion to visit a school that was imparting instruction in English at Nagarcoil under the auspices of the London Mission Society. He was impressed by the school and the quality of the education given there and was convinced that the new type of school held out great prospects for the people of the State. Shortly thereafter he invited Mr. Roberts who was in charge of the school at Nagarcoil to come to Thiruvananthapuram and start a similar school there. The educationist who was an Englishman, agreed and a new school was started in 1834. It was a private institution, but the State Government contributed the prescribed fees for 80 pupils who thereby got free tuition. The classes were conducted in an old building located about half a mile to the south of the University College, on the premises where the Ayurveda College stands today. In less than a year Government took over the school and assumed full responsibility for its management. Mr. Roberts was appointed Headmaster and the school came to be known as ‘The Raja’s Free School’. In the following year the institution was moved to a new building constructed for the purpose on the premises where the University College is now located. The school continued as a free institution till 1863-64. Those were days when education of the Western type was being newly introduced in India and the Raja’s Free School was one of the earliest institutions in south India established under the auspices of Government for imparting instruction to the children of the State. It attracted pupils from all parts of Travancore and many of its alumni rose to high positions in the public life of the State and distinguished themselves in many fields of cultural activity.

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