GEORGE TOWN: The school buildings of Convent Light Street (CLS) and Convent Pulau Tikus (CPT) are heritage premises.
CLS is the oldest girls’ school in South-East Asia, standing proudly on the present site within the Unesco Heritage Zone since 1859. It is also where Sir Stamford Raffles worked for a time.
The school was founded in 1852 by three French Catholic nuns from the Holy Infant Jesus Mission, who were part of a group of five nuns who had travelled from France to Singapore to set up a Catholic institution in Singapore.
At the request of Monsignor Jean-Baptiste Boucho in George Town, the three sailed from Singapore to Penang Island and settled in an attap hut near the Church of the Assumption at Church Street (the church has since been moved to Farquhar Street), where they taught during the day and sewed clothes at night to raise funds.
With the growing number of children under their care, the nuns bought the Anglo-Indian-style building and surrounding 2.8ha compound in 1859.
The Government House was built by Captain Francis Light. When Penang was elevated to the Fourth Presidency of India, the building housed the Governor’s Office and Council Chambers.
Raffles, who went to Singapore and later became its founder, spent much of his time attending to his duties at this building.
The nuns took over Government House as the Novitiate building while the surrounding wood and attap structures were used as dormitories, kitchen and classrooms.
The field forming part of the compound was later sold to the neighbouring St Xavier’s Institution in Penang. Apart from housing orphans, the convent functioned as a boarding school.
Over the next 80 years, the school continued to expand and an Old Chapel was erected, alongside cloisters and classrooms.
CPT is an all-girls school set up in Pulau Tikus by Catholic missionaries in the early 20th century.
These missionaries were nuns who served the Eurasian parish of the Church of the Immaculate Conception before the school was set up.
In 2005, CPT became a government-aided school.
SK Convent Pulau Tikus is located on a separate piece of land a few hundred metres away from CPT, belongs to the education ministry.
George Town World Heritage Incorporated general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee said CLS is a Category One building situated in the core zone of the George Town World Heritage Site, while CPT is also a heritage building under Category Two, but located outside the site.
“Under Category One, the building needs to be conserved as original. Any adaptation for the use must have minimal impact on the cultural significance,” she said.
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