Convent Bukit Nanas, one of the oldest girls’ schools in the country, is now being forced to go to court to save the school, or at least its character and heritage.
The decision not to renew the school’s land lease, due to expire on 6 September, is baffling.
Do we not value history? Is there no more obligation towards thriving on proven legacy? Do we not respect and cherish legendary learning institutions that are iconic and have played formative roles in educating Malaysians?
Built in 1899, this is a school that has produced many of our country’s women leaders and professionals who have walked the talk in their various callings, bearing testimony to the values instilled in them in the convent.
We can preserve pre-war commercial blocks at huge cost and turn them into thriving eateries and businesses, but we do not seem able to stop land grabs that can undermine, if not bulldoze, the pride and glory of historical institutions of learning. Why?
To leave the school with no choice but to take the arduous route of seeking justice through the courts raises many ethical and value-based questions. Where is our conscience? We cannot blame concerned people from asking if there is a hidden agenda at work.
The esteemed Society of Saint Maur, which governs the well-known convent, does not deserve such punishment. For over a century, the various lady superiors from the society served – without salary, material gain or vested earthly interest – while providing effective leadership to the school. They should be revered and given all the support needed to continue leading this established institution of learning.
No amount of official justifications can dispel the misgivings of the public over the non-renewal of the lease. Why undermine the school, nestled in an enclave of greenery and rolling hills near two other legendary schools and a cathedral. Are we so blinded that we cannot see and acknowledge the glorious perspective of this segment of Bukit Nanas?
Once the convent is taken over, what is to stop the government from wanting to take over and change the character, if not demolish, other venerable schools using the same strategy?
In a climate where we face many challenges in our education system – racist decisions, the politicisation of religion, and poor educational standards – why can’t the authorities not learn to treasure the great achievements of this precious convent and let it continue contributing to nation-building as it has done for over a century?
To subject Convent Bukit Nanas to this uncertain fate, leaving it with no choice but to challenge the government’s decision in the courts, would leave another major dent to the country’s reputation.