Why Are Malaysians Trying To Save Convent Bukit Nanas?

Malaysians came together to liberate the century-old Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) school in Kuala Lumpur.

An online petition to “Save SMK Convent Bukit Nanas” began with news of the government’s refusal to extend the school’s land lease – which expires on 6 September 2021 – to the school’s administration run by the Lady Superior of the Society of Saint Maur convent.

(Credit: Change.org)

With the school board challenging the Federal Government’s decision in court, many like former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, who herself is a CBN alumnus, request that the historic institution, which celebrated its 120th birthday in 2019, be honoured as a national heritage site.

Others like Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad relish how the school should be preserved as a monument of the country’s character.

That’s what we’re trying to do

According to the Federal Territories Land and Mines Office (PPTGWP), the decision not to renew CBN’s lease was to do exactly that – not to demolish the iconic building but to revert it back to the government to be gazetted as a fully-funded government school.

PPTGWP Director Datuk Muhammad Yasir explained that the school would benefit more from being a fully government-aided institution and mentioned that the school’s administration has the right to appeal to maintain its hold over the land.

However, if the school board wants to continue operating the school, they can appeal to the Federal Land Commissioner who owns the land lease. If they choose to do so, the school may not be able to enjoy the full benefits that come with being a fully aided government school.

PPTGWP Director Datuk Muhammad Yasir via The Star

The school on top Pineapple Hill

CBN is an all-girls school established in 1899 by three Christian nuns from the French Congregation of the Holy Infant Jesus convent, who arrived here from Singapore.

The school, with its classical English-Gothic architecture, is recognised today as one of the best educational institutions in the country.

It, however, had its start with just a dozen students besides operating as an orphanage. By 1911, the school had over 300 students.

Many of the students at the time were said to be children of immigrants making a living in KL – and they were taught subjects like essay writing, sewing, music, art and some good ol’ fashion ‘pendidikan jasmani’.

(Credit: CBN Alumni)

Back then, the school curriculum in old Malaya was still under the purview of the British colonial government.

By 1925, the school welcomed its first local teacher by the name of Miss Sobreen, who was said to be the daughter of KL’s legendary businessman and philanthropist, Loke Chow Kit.

(Credit: CBN Alumni)

Incredibly, the school also served as a temporary shelter during the Japanese occupation of World War II.

A place of excellence

CBN is considered one of the country’s most high-achieving schools – receiving the honour of being on the Education Ministry’s (MOE) list of Cluster School of Excellence with some of the best performing Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) candidates nationwide.

(Credit: CBN Alumni)

The school is also famous for its award-winning cheerleading squad, school band and its prominent alumni which includes successful women like; the Tengku Permaisuri of Selangor Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, the ex-President of the Malaysian Bar Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, former national rhythmic gymnast Dr Farrah-Hani Imran and others.

(Credit: CBN Alumni)

See: Hakim, A. (2021, April 20). Why Are Malaysians Trying To Save Convent Bukit Nanas? The Rakyat Post.