GEORGE TOWN: Three iconic convent schools here that produced many great scholars are not shutting down, but “transforming for the better”.
It was reported that SK Convent Light Street, SMK Convent Light Street and SMK Convent Pulau Tikus would be closing by 2024, and the land on which the schools are sited would be returned to the Sisters of Infant Jesus (IJS).
Datuk Tan Leh Sah, who chairs the board of governors of SK Convent Light Street and SMK Convent Light Street, said IJS was trying to bring the schools back to their original purpose of providing wholesome education.
“This is merely a period of change for the schools, namely the two Convent Light Street schools, which have gone through several changes since it (Convent Light Street) was founded in 1852.
“For example, during my schooling days, it was a boarding school and also a private school, where students were able to continue their education after failing their Standard Six exams.
“The private school was shut down when students were allowed to continue with their education after failing their exams,” she told the New Straits Times today.
Tan said she was happy that the schools would be transforming for the better.
She also rubbished claims that high-rise buildings would be developed on the schools’ grounds.
“If you look at the previous statements by the nuns, they have always stressed that the grounds would always be an institution of learning.
“In fact, in the 1990s, the nuns made a highly-publicised pledge that the ‘Convent is not for sale’.
Tan said the IJS would be issuing a statement when the mother provincial returned from a trip abroad.
She also urged everyone to give the Sisters of Infant Jesus space and time to execute their plans.
“They will release more details on the plans for the schools’ future when things firm up as there are many procedures including government applications that need to be sorted out,” she said, adding that claims by certain quarters that the nuns had failed to consult the alumni was false.
“They have always consulted or, at least, kept the alumni informed.
“I do not know where some alumni have been, that they are now claiming not to have been informed.”
Convent Light Street, the oldest girl’s school in Southeast Asia was founded by three French Catholic nuns. Convent Pulau Tikus was founded in the early 1900s.
Tan said the convent schools would not undergo anything like the closure of Bukit Bintang Girls’ School in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, which was demolished to make way for an upmarket mall, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.
“Why is there no spotlight on SK Pykett Methodist closing at the end of this year?
“The question should be what is going to happen that land,” she said,
The 124-year-old SK Pykett Methodist will be closing this year due to declining enrolment.
It was reported two years ago, that the IJS, which established more than 50 schools across Malaysia had requested for the return of the lands on which SK and SMK Convent Light Street and SMK Pulau Tikus were located.
During the uproar then, IJS provincial leader Celina Wong had said that the aim was to bring back IJS’s ethos, the special character and traditions of mission schools
She said IJS would never forget its mission in education.
Yesterday, an English daily announced that the Education Ministry had approved the IJS’s application for the return of the land and that the school had stopped taking in new students since last year, to prepare for the closure by 2024.
In response, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had appealed to the Education Ministry to relocate the schools, if there was a need to do so.