Convents will continue to be used for educational purposes, say Sisters.

Convent Light Street (above) and Convent Pulau Tikus will close in 2024, say their owners. (Facebook pic)

GEORGE TOWN: The French Catholic mission that runs three iconic Convent schools here has reiterated that there are no plans to redevelop or sell the land, which would continue to be used for educational purposes.

The schools are Convent Light Street primary and secondary school and Convent Pulau Tikus secondary school, which are managed by the Malaysian education ministry. The land and property belong to the Sisters of the Infant Jesus order.

In a statement today, the secretariat of the order said: “We wish to impress that the IJ Sisters are firm believers of education and they will continue to advocate wholesome education in their mission schools.”

News of the closure of the schools first broke in 2017 and the Sisters said at the time that it had no plans to redevelop or sell the land but would continue to use it for educational purposes. SIJ’s Sister Celina Wong had said: “The Sisters want to go back to our initial reason for being here, that is, the initial objective of providing a wholesome education in our mission schools.

“It is about bringing back our ethos, the special character and traditions of what a mission school is, a mission school that promotes the overall formation of an individual child irrespective of race, religion or social standing.”

However, recent news reports revived the issue of the closure of the schools, bringing it to public attention again

Today’s statement said: “Please do not speculate and we know it is frustrating not to have any update or knowledge relating to the report (of the schools’ closure) at this juncture,” it said.

A clearer picture would emerge once the Lady Superior of the order returns from a general chapter meeting in Rome early next month, the statement said.

The IJ Sisters came to Malaya in 1852 and founded a convent school in Light Street 167 years ago. It is one of the oldest girls’ schools in Southeast Asia. SIJ opened Convent Saint Maur in Pulau Tikus – later renamed Convent Pulau Tikus – in 1922.

Earlier today Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow responded to calls to take over the land and schools, saying the matter was best left to federal authorities.

He said most mission-run and Chinese medium schools had retained ownership of their land in order to protect the identities of the schools.

“In this case, the land owner has decided it does not want to continue (to operate the schools), based on press reports, because the characteristics will change. They think it does not reflect the original purpose of setting up the schools, so they have decided to maybe transform the schools, as reported, probably a private or international school,” he told reporters at a function at Penang Development Corporation.

On Saturday, Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh called on the state government to acquire the land and buildings under the Land Acquisition Act. He said the schools were important historically to Penang and Malaysia’s education system.

Ramkarpal said while acquiring the land and buildings would incur costs to the government, it was the only way to save the schools and maintain them as they were.