GEORGE TOWN: "It is an amazing achievement for the oldest school in Southeast Asia".
This was the immediate response from Penang Free School (PFS) board of governors chairman Datuk Abdul Rafique Karim upon hearing the good news that the school was declared a national heritage site yesterday.
Rafique, who is also an Old Frees, a term used for former PFS students, said that the effort made by the school to have it gazetted as a national heritage site had finally paid after almost six years since the initiative first started.
"This is definitely a proud moment for us, the Old Frees, and everyone who made this a success. We will now do whatever it takes to preserve this, brick to brick.
"We will also preserve our customs and documentaries of the school so that the younger generation can know the rich history this school has," he told the New Straits Times when contacted today.
Meanwhile, Old Frees Association chairman Billy Yeoh See Ling said he was proud, now that he was part of the school heritage.
He said it had always been a privilege for him to study at such a historic school in the country.
"The Old Frees had hoped that the declaration as national heritage site was made during our bicentenary celebration. But this still gives me the goosebumps and I am definitely overjoyed about it.
"This is not a common school...it is definitely a special school, for us and everyone," he said.
On Oct 21, 2016, PFS celebrated its bicentenary celebration with over 5,000 former students and teachers in attendance.
The huge turnout was recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records as the biggest of its kind for a school reunion event.
Luminaries such as Malaysia’s founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and silver screen legend Tan Sri P. Ramlee were some of the school’s famous students.
Yesterday, the National Heritage Department declared the school, built on the 8ha land located at Jalan Masjid Negeri here, as a national heritage site, alongside Masjid Alwi in Kangar, Perlis.
Rafique said that for now the school did not have plans for any specific celebration but will do so in the near future.
"Despite having it gazetted by the National Heritage Department, we have yet to receive the formal letter of the declaration.
"Once we get it, we will definitely have a celebration to mark the declaration of our beloved school, another feather to the cap," he said.
He also hoped the school would further push the students to strive for excellence in both academics and co-curriculum.
"Maintaining the heritage status is never an easy task but we will do our best. At the same time, we want to make this school as a high performance school in the country," he added.