KAJANG: It’s highly likely that those unfamiliar with the century-old SJKC Ton Fah here will notice it when they drive through Beranang, a small town along the Seremban-Kuala Lumpur trunk road.
The school, located on a 1.1ha plot of land, metres away from the Negri Sembilan border, may be inconspicuous but it stands out in its own way – 90% of its 160 pupils are non-Chinese.
This despite it sharing the same perimeter fence with SK Beranang, a national school.
“And based on statistics, the number is surely going to increase further," said school board of governors chairman Ng See Beng.
Ng, who has been chairman for the past 20 years, said he only had Chinese schoolmates when he studied there.
“Today, it is a totally different story," he said.
Ng said one of the reasons the number of Chinese pupils dwindled over the years was because a large part of Beranang was a Malay reserve area.
“The Chinese had to move out as we could not buy property or open up businesses.
“But this has not reduced the student population at the school,” he said, adding that the enrolment was just 135 three years ago.
Headmaster Cho Lin Yen said Indian pupils made up the second largest enrolment with 31.
“In fact, there is only one Chinese pupil in Year One and none in Year Two,” she said, adding that there was only one Chinese boy enrolled in a preschool class.
Cho said to accommodate the high number of non-Chinese pupils, the school decided to invite a Muslim to run its canteen.
“We do not want our Muslim students to feel awkward. Since the non-Muslims can also eat Muslim food, we thought this was best,” she said, adding that the majority of the school’s Parent Teacher Association members were Malays as well.
Cho said to ensure the pupils had a good grasp of Chinese, the board also paid the fees of some of the weaker pupils to attend extra lessons after school.
Parents said they enrolled their children there due to a combination of factors.
Widow Siti Asmah Yunus, 36, whose four children study at SJKC Ton Fah, said the main reason was to allow them to mingle with other races.
“The majority of pupils enrolled at the national school here are Malays and there are hardly any from the other races.
“By coming here, they can mix freely with Chinese and Indian students,” she said, adding that there was also an ustazah at SJKC Ton Fah for Islamic lessons.
Another parent, Sukina Shafiee, 35, from Sg Jai in Negri Sembilan, who has a daughter in Year Two, said the girl spoke fluent Mandarin.
“I have also enrolled my other daughter to start preschool here next year,” she said.
Sukina said she had always wanted her children to be multilingual.“This can only be possible by enrolling them in a vernacular school.”
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