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GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia’s largest literary event, the George Town Literary Festival, opened yesterday with a slew of activities and book launches over this weekend.

Yesterday afternoon saw the launch of a book which honours the legacy in education left in Penang by the La Salle Brothers.

“The Xaverian Journey — The Story of a Lasallian School in Penang, Malaysia 1787-2019” was unveiled at The Karpal Singh Hall at St Xavier’s Institution (SXI), here, by the school’s retiring principal Dr Sim Hock Keat.

The book was authored by three of the school’s alumni, Dr Francis K.W. Loh, Dr Cecilia Ng, and La Salle Brother Anthony Rogers.

“The Xaverian Journey is a chronicle of the founding, growth and progress of a Lasallian school in Penang,” the book’s publisher and the school’s former student Chin Saik Yoon said in a statement.

“The first period of growth occurred in the 1920s and 1930s and St Xavier’s became one of the top schools in then British Malaya.

“Its students were among those who won the coveted Queen’s Scholarship to study in Oxford, Cambridge and London.

“Using St Xavier’s and Penang as their regional base, the La Salle Brothers spread and founded schools throughout the Malay peninsula and in East Asia,” Chin added.

Cover of the newly-launched book 'The Xaverian Journey'. - NSTP/EMAIL
Cover of the newly-launched book 'The Xaverian Journey'. - NSTP/EMAIL

“This progress was rudely interrupted by the outbreak of World War 2, and the entire school was destroyed in an Allied air raid on Penang in 1945.

“Hence, when the war ended and schooling resumed, teaching was conducted in attap huts in the St Xavier’s field.

“After nine years and much fund-raising efforts, St Xavier’s was rebuilt,” Chin said.

He said regeneration and a second round of growth occurred due to Independence in 1957, the formation of Malaysia in 1963, and a general demand for education.

“Amidst this growth, the absorption of SXI and other mission schools into the National Education System (NES) occurred.

“The book discusses not only the growth but also how the Brothers and St Xavier’s adapted to these challenges, the resultant loss of autonomy, and a burgeoning sense of a los

s of identity in following decades.

“This book honours those Brothers, lay teachers and students who served the school,” Chin added.

“It also recognises Xaverians who contributed towards nation-building and the making of the modern Malaysian economy and society.”

The school, which is located along Lebuh Farquhar, date back to 1787.

It is the oldest Catholic Lasallian school in Malaysia.

Its students, who are colloquially known as “Xavierians” or “La Sallians’” include notables like Penang’s first chief minister Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee, former lawyer and opposition politician Karpal Singh, Malaysian film director Saw Teong Hin, Eurasian jazz musician and composer Jimmy Boyle, Singapore’s former finance minister Hon Sui Sen and mayor of Kapiti Coast New Zealand K. Gurunathan.

The book is expected to be available at major bookstores from the middle of next month.

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