LEARNING about the George Town World Unesco World Heritage Site can be an adventure, as a group of 40 SMK Raja Tun Uda students found out during a Heritage Exploration tour.
The programme for school children, run by George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) in collaboration with Arts-ED, had the youngsters delving into the history and culture of the city’s early settlers through a unique line up of interactive activities.
They learnt about secret societies and how ‘gangsters’ eventually transformed into ‘gentleman’, as well as taboos and customs from that era which are still being practised today.
Friends Mohd Saiful Azhar, Mohd Yusop Samsudin and Mohd Shamirul Alif, all aged 13, found the ‘Stories of Early Settlers’ tour a fun and enlightening experience, and it was their first time visiting the area.
“We learnt many new things about other cultures and religions, and their histories. It was great to see such old buildings up close,” Saiful enthused.
Starting off with a stroll along pre-war shophouses along Acheh Street, the youngsters were confronted with a common problem, that of obstacles — from residents’ motorcycles to boxes and flower pots — placed along five-foot ways that made traversing difficult.
Later, the group ventured to the nearby Khoo Kongsi, one of the world’s most magnificent clanhouses, learning about its origins, architectural influences and clan genealogy.
They concluded their tour at the Acheen Street Mosque, among the state’s oldest mosques, built in the early 1800s. At both landmarks, the inquisitive youngsters were sent to ‘hunt’ for certain elements.
Project volunteer Fidel Ho said the two sites were chosen to allow the students to compare the differences between both settlements, be it their house and shop layouts, to prayer areas and architecture.
“We wanted them to see what each community has or doesn’t have. It’s important to cultivate heritage interest and awareness among the younger generation,” she opined.
GTWHI communications officer Lim Chung Wei said the Heritage Exploration programme gave participants a hands-on experience on the multi-culturalism of George Town which was shaped by different migrant groups.
“The legacy of these groups is still evident in the lively traditional trades, businesses, food, crafts and building architecture.
“The discovery trails involve the active engagement of the students and the application of classroom knowledge in the field, giving them an inter-disciplinary understanding of history, geography, culture and identity,” he pointed out.
The programme is conducted by a specially trained team of volunteers known as Friends of George Town Heritage.
Interested schools may register for free, on a first-come-first-served basis. Each school is limited to two sponsored heritage trails, and are responsible for their own transport, refreshments and group insurance. Booking and confirmation are required three weeks in advance.
Similar tours are available for the general public (aged 15 to 20 only), every last Saturday of the month, between 2pm and 5.30pm, limited to the first 20 participants.
For more information on types of tours and registration, contact Lim at email@example.com or 04-2616606.