Former CBN students relieved school has been saved

PETALING JAYA: Students, parents, staff and alumni of the 122-year-old SMK Convent Bukit Nanas in Kuala Lumpur can breathe easy, now that the government has extended the land lease for 60 years.

The lease had been set to expire on Sept 6.

President of the Convent Bukit Nanas alumni Marina Yong, told FMT how relieved she was to hear the good news as she had been deeply troubled by earlier reports that the land lease had not been renewed.

“I was shocked when I first received the news that the land lease was not yet renewed. People flocked to our alumni page (Facebook), requesting updates on what was going on and what the alumni was planning to do about it,” she said, adding that one of her deepest worries was for the welfare of the present batch of students studying there.

“Can you imagine what the students must have felt? Knowing their school lease was to end in September?

“They would have been panicking and feeling terribly upset about the possibility of the worst-case scenario where they might have to move.

“That’s such an awful thing to do to the students who have been dealing with the whole added stress of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Yong said.

Founded in 1899 by the nuns of the Sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus, Convent Bukit Nanas is one of the oldest schools in Malaysia.

The school has churned out many notable students including entertainers, professionals, athletes, and national leaders.

Prominent alumni include former international trade and industry minister Rafidah Aziz, lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan, activist Ivy Josiah, former national gymnast Dr Farrah Hani Imran, and singer and actress Adibah Noor among others.

Jun Ishak, vice-president of the Convent Bukit Nanas alumni said her fondest memories as a student there were of the times she spent roaming about the school’s grounds, soaking in its beautiful architecture.

Flicking through the pages of the Convent Bukit Nanas coffee table book, Jun told FMT that she loved staying back after school for extracurricular activities. She said the school was a place she always felt safe in.

She also said the recess period was her favourite time of day because her classmates would gather for quick mid-morning snacks before hitting the books again.

“Unlike many other schools, I remember that when it rained, it would get so cold and we would wear our sweaters and vests in school,” gushed the 50-year-old, who was also quite the school athlete during her time there.

Former international trade and industry minister Rafidah Aziz also studied at Convent Bukit Nanas. (Muhammad Rabbani Jamian @ FMT)

Yong said she vividly remembers the utter joy of standing on the balcony with her friends and watching the monkeys play in the forest right across.

“Just from the class balcony, you would be able to see right into the forest and watch the monkeys play.

“We also had our favourite cendol man who made the nicest cendol,” she said.

She added that not only were her school days filled with great moments with her friends and teachers, she also had a strong attachment to the physical building.

She explained that even the design and architecture of the school was unique and that most modern schools lacked the aesthetics that historical buildings like Convent Bukit Nanas have.

Besides performing well academically, the two women remarked that students of Convent Bukit Nanas also excelled in sports.

Both Yong and Jun said they loved playing netball and softball, and always looked forward to hosting inter-school matches where they would “scream their heads off” cheering for their teammates.

“We really were a competitive bunch. Till today, I have never met any Convent Bukit Nanas girl who is not able to rise above any situation,” she said, adding that all it usually took was a nudge from a classmate to get them pushing on.

She said the petition to save Convent Bukit Nanas was a case in point.

While the appeal to have the lease extended did spread like wildfire on social media, she said she never expected it to become a nationwide campaign as well.

“I am elated and full of gratitude. Thank you everyone for the support, for lending an ear, and coming together to help save an integral part of Malaysia’s history.

“Convent Bukit Nanas had much to do in shaping my life values. The school’s motto, ‘Simple in Virtue, Steadfast in Duty’, is something I try my best to live up to till today,” said a visibly happy Jun.

See: Sekaran, R. (2021, April 25). Former CBN students relieved school has been saved. Free Malaysia Today.