SIMPLE Dans Ma Vertu, Forte Dans Mon Devoir (Simple in my virtues, steadfast in my duties): This is my school motto which still lingers in my heart. It saddened me to find out that my school is one of the three iconic convent schools in Penang that will be shut by 2024.
My best friend, who studied at a boarding school, said to me, “I don’t get this strong emotional attachment convent girls have with their schools. It’s like there is this ghostly umbilical cord between you and the school.” OK, that sounds like an eerie ghost story ... but on a serious note, my friend’s question made me think hard about why former convent girls like me love and take pride in our missionary school so much.
During primary school, I remember vividly when my friends and I paid respect to Sister Fedelis who was a kind nun and a caring English teacher.
We attended an elaborate Christian funeral, carried candles and our non-Christian friends and teachers (including our ustaz and ustazah) joined in prayers in an old chapel with a mesmerising neo-Gothic architectural influence.
There were a lot of conventional Muslim parents, including mine, who waited patiently for us outside the chapel until we finished the ceremony. Our parents respected the school teachers and trusted that the Christian ceremony would not prompt their daughters to deviate from their faith. The trust was built upon the nuns and other teachers’ professionalism, competency and transparency.
The chapel is within the school compound and there were no extremists who requested that it be separated from the school, not even our Islamic teachers! I feel that the school belongs to all races and faiths, where religious tolerance and moderate Muslims exist in harmony.
As a Muslim, I think my convent school shaped me and my Muslim friends to be independent thinkers and profound believers in Allah without being easily offended by other religions’ activities.
Convent Light Street is the oldest school in South-East Asia, as the history of the school dates back 350 years. That is how long the school has created a positive impact in our Malaysian education system.
I still remember my history lessons conducted in an old wooden classroom located in an Anglo-Indian building known as Government House. Captain Francis Light, the founder of Penang, and Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore, worked briefly in that Government House, which is part of the Convent Light Street’s premises.
My history teacher once told us where we sat in the classroom was the “sweet spot” from which Captain Light would watch his ships with his binoculars pointed out of the wooden window. My point here is not about the English captain but about my dedicated Malaysian teachers who were passionate about their work. I had teachers who were willing to spend their leisure time after official school hours to conduct extra classes to prep us for our exams.
Lastly, at this school was where I met great friends from all walks of life, of different races and with different faiths. My friends and I received a secular, quality and wholesome English-medium education at affordable fees.
This is also the school where I found my first love that has no boundary of race, religion or even gender! There was no need to label the love.
NOOR ASMALIZA ROMLEE
A Former Convent Girl