CBN: The origins of ‘girl power’

Proud heritage: CBN exemplifies the importance of holistic education in grooming young minds.

RECENTLY, SMK Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) found itself at the centre of a crisis after it was informed of the government’s decision not to extend its land lease, which would expire in Sept 6.

With a judicial review set to take place, the 122-year-old mission school’s future was hanging in the balance until the Prime Minister’s Office intervened and a 60-year extension of the lease was subsequently granted.

The decision offered a welcome relief to the school, which has been home to students, from preschool to secondary level, since 1899.

Having produced a string of accomplished Malaysians – like former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, lawyers Ambiga Sreenevasan and Raja Datuk Seri Eleena Sultan Azlan Shah, women’s rights activist Ivy Josiah, artiste Adibah Noor, and former national rhythmic gymnast and surgeon Dr Farrah-Hani Imran – who have excelled in the fields of politics, law, medicine, sports, entertainment and activism, CBN proves that its legacy extends far beyond providing quality education.

The school is an example of what a model learning institution should be in how it grooms young, impressionable minds into leaders and professionals who are crucial in helping to build our nation.

Here, three former students – who are participants of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team – share fond memories of their time at the all-girls’ school started by nuns of the Sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus.

The school, located along Jalan Bukit Nanas in Kuala Lumpur, is operated by Lady Superior of the Society of Saint Maur.

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CBNers, always: Carrie Ann (second from left) with her classmates on their last day of school in 2018.CBNers, always: Carrie Ann (second from left) with her classmates on their last day of school in 2018.

A platform to shine

I had never expected to be enrolled in an all-girls’ school, and I thought it would be a bore compared to a co-ed school. Life in CBN, however, proved to be more interesting than I would ever have imagined.

The most unique occasion we celebrated was undoubtedly “Everybody’s Day”. It was a day where class representatives showed up not only in attire befitting the theme, but also with their respective talents and oratory skills, in order to to wow the judges and win the title of “Miss Everybody”.

These celebrations were memorable, especially when I became part of the prefectorial board and photography team in Form Five.

If anything, CBN gave me lots of opportunities to involve myself in activities. For example, I never expected to be part of the event crew for the CBN musical in 2016, nor did I ever think of running around in my prefect heels or using a walkie-talkie during a teacher’s retirement ceremony.

Some of my best memories were recorded in the certificates I received, for example, when my team took part in a workshop for an international trade challenge while others were captured in the photos we took when my friends and I went for writing competitions at other schools.

Indeed, CBN provided a platform for us to shine, and the teachers were all supportive of us.

Perhaps my love for CBN is not as deep compared to that of my peers who studied there from their kindergarten or primary school years. Yet, I do know and will forever remember this: “Once a CBNer, Always a CBNer.” – By CARRIE ANN, 20, Kuala Lumpur

Friends for life: Yeu-Mynn (second from left) and her buddies at their graduation ceremony in 2017.Friends for life: Yeu-Mynn (second from left) and her buddies at their graduation ceremony in 2017.

Room for growth

So, what was it like being surrounded by girls in my schooling life for 11 years?

I’d totally do it again! It can’t be denied that CBN provides many stepping stones for its students.

I competed in choral speaking competitions from a young age. I also took part in Bicara Berima competitions (the Bahasa Malaysia equivalent of choral speaking), even getting to perform in Putrajaya on the National Youth Day in 2014.

In addition, I represented CBN at the Southeast Asian Forensics Tournament 2017, an international literary-debate competition that birthed my passion for the performing arts.

CBN sets the stage for its students. The Unity Hall hosted most of our practices, from choral speaking to English Week events.

I also had the opportunity of performing for eminent figures, including Malaysia’s first astronaut Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.

This hall, unlike any other, has taught thousands of girls like me acceptance, confidence and eloquence. Even to this day, memories of the hours of practice always make me smile.

Essentially, CBN is a platform that allows room for creative expression and interpersonal growth in numerous ways.

My time in CBN was blissful. I graduated with unforgettable memories, a fighting spirit and friends whom I can call sisters. I am blessed to have honed the skills that took years of hard work to mould, and it is all thanks to CBN. – By YEU-MYNN, 21, Selangor

Buoyant spirits: Nurfatihah (right) and her friend Kamilia celebrating their graduation in 2018.Buoyant spirits: Nurfatihah (right) and her friend Kamilia celebrating their graduation in 2018.

A forgiving spirit

It was a Monday morning. I had a Mathematics test in 45 minutes and I was late for school.

Nothing was more embarrassing than having to take the “tardy” slip from my Mathematics teacher, who incidentally would be marking my exam paper on the same day.

Not only did I manage to score an A, but I also never arrived late in school again.

I also remember accidentally breaking the school vase. I panicked at the thought of getting called up to the principal’s office; instead, I was asked to buy a new one. A few teachers even helped me carry and instal it.

Such was CBN’s community: firm yet forgiving.

It was at CBN where I met teachers who would stay back until the late evenings just to conduct extra classes.

There were also parents who would voluntarily chip in their money or energy to distribute healthy breakfast and vitamins during SPM week, and students who would sacrifice their Saturdays to attend the monthly gotong-royong.

The CBN community came from various backgrounds but we gathered as one during school carnivals, Merdeka celebrations and morning assemblies.

I may have graduated three years ago, but my bond with the school stays strong. – By NURFATIHAH, 20, Kuala Lumpur

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