Iconic convent schools to close

GEORGE TOWN: Following a downtrend of reduced number of mission schools in the country, three of the iconic convent schools in Penang will be shut by 2024.

The three schools – SK Convent Light Street, SMK Convent Light Street and SMK Convent Pulau Tikus – will be closed down and the land returned to Sisters of Infant Jesus Malaysia, who are the owner.

“The Education Ministry has heeded their request and gave its approval to return their land.

And we have stopped the intake of new students in the three schools since last year,” said state Education director Dr Mahanom Mat Sam in an interview with The Star yesterday.

She said the approval was given late last year and SMK Convent Lebuh Light and SMK Convent Pulau Tikus would be closed in 2023, while SK Lebuh Light would cease operations in 2024.

“The land will be returned to the owner by 2025 as there are several administrative and legal processes to be followed before they can be handed back to the owner,” she said.

Asked whether the schools would be relocated, Mahanom said it was not up to the Education Department to decide as the schools operated on private land as mission schools.

“It is up to the land owner whether they want to relocate the schools as we do not have a say in this matter,” she said.

Mahanom said the teaching staff of the respective schools would, however, be posted to other schools.

When contacted, the Sisters of Infant Jesus Malaysia office in Kuala Lumpur declined to comment when asked whether the schools would be closed down or relocated.

Talk of the schools’ closure surfaced in 2017 after a letter from the north-east district Education office saying that the schools would not take in new students from 2018 went viral.

The department had said that the Sisters of the Infant Jesus had written to the Education Ministry asking to take back the plots of land where the schools were located.

It, however, said that the ministry had not granted approval on the matter.

The spokesperson for Sisters of the Infant Jesus Malaysia Sister Celina Wong had said there was no intention to sell the land and buildings for re-development and the organisation stood by their initial objective of providing a wholesome education in their mission schools.

All three schools are housed in heritage buildings.

Convent Light Street, which was started in 1852, is the oldest girls’ school in South-East Asia. It moved to its current building in 1859.

Convent Pulau Tikus was established in the early 20th century when the area called Pulau Tikus first came into being.

The state, however, said although it did not have any say on the matter, it would not approve any new development on the land.

It was reported four years ago that the 126-year-old mission school – SK Pykett Methodist – would be closed in 2019.

The intake for Year One pupils has stopped since 2015.

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