Preserve Convent Primary

Facade of SK IJ Convent Johor Baru
In the past few months, I heard rumours about it from more than one source but last week, I received concrete proof that it was happening.  My friend whose daughter is a student in the SK Infant Jesus Convent, Johor Baru, brought home a letter to her parents signed by the head of the school’s Parents-Teachers Association or PTA, dated Oct 30.  The subject line reads: Perpindahan SK Infant Jesus Convent Johor Baru ke Nusajaya, which translates as, Transfer of SK Infant Jesus Convent Johor Baru to Nusajaya. 

I’m keenly interested in what's happening to my former school and took a closer look at the letter.  Apparently, all the PTA members of the 2012/2014 session have met, discussed and agreed unanimously for the school’s shift into a new school building in Nusajaya.  In the letter, parents were also requested fill in their names and to indicate their agreement or disagreement to the move and return a tear-off slip to the school by Nov 8. 

This set off alarm bells because the concerned parents noticed a few inconsistencies in the letter.  Firstly, it stated that a decision has already been reached by the PTA.  But it also asked parents to say if they agreed or disagreed to the move. 

Front lobby of SK IJ Convent Primary School, JB
It appears that by a stroke of the pen, parents are going to add to the numbers to help the PIBG decide on whether or not to move the 800 primary school students to Nusajaya.  But it is not such a simple decision because it will affect the lives of not only the students and teachers but also entire families.  While Nusajaya may be the current hotbed for business development and education, parents and students still want the proud tradition of a Convent education in one of JB’s iconic landmarks, originally named, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus.

Since the deadline for the required reply stated in the letter was drawing close, parents urgently needed a clarification.  And when a dialogue was arranged for parents to meet with PIBG representatives and the school headmistress, I did not hesitate to join them because it was an opportunity for me to confirm or quash the rumours.  Incidentally, that morning the primary school also held its annual Hari Anugerah where Excellence Awards were presented to students who achieved commendable exam results. 

A parent speaking to PTA and school representatives
at the dialogue held in the Primary School hall
By observing and listening to the parents, my first impression was how they wanted their daughters to have continuity in completing their primary studies in SK IJ Convent, followed by secondary education in the adjacent SMK IJ Convent.  These parents have made a personal choice to admit their daughters to IJ Convent and they share a sense of pride in giving their children a Convent education.  In fact for the past 9 years a parent, whose business is in Pasir Gudang, rented a house in Jalan Mustaffa, a road directly opposite the JB Convent, so that his daughters could go to school conveniently. 

Just like him, parents who are aware of the quality education and the unique learning environment in the Convent, have made major decisions like selling their houses in the suburbs and buying homes closer to the school to enable their daughters to be educated here.  Parents value the Convent identity, not only for its proud traditions in producing excellent students who have gone on to achieve reputable careers locally and abroad but also in continuing the legacy where generations of girls in their families have been educated in the only Convent school in JB.

Peggy [Right] ready for Std 1
with sisters, Ruby and Pearly [Left and Center]
On their part, the school and PTA representatives acknowledged that their letter was poorly worded as it was meant to be a survey.  They regretted the miscommunication and agreed to withdraw it, while seeking the parents’ help to draft a fresh survey form and appealed for volunteers to help authenticate the survey results later.  The representatives assured parents that there would be a due process in the next few months and no decision has yet been made on the school’s transfer as it rests with the school administration and the Education Department.

As I listened to the impassioned appeals to preserve the proud Convent heritage in JB, I understood that the parents do not want their daughters’ primary education to be disrupted.  A parent said there are many schools in JB like Bandar Selesa 1 and 2 and Foon Yew 1 to 5, established one after another to comfortably accommodate their increasing number of students.  If the Convent needed new premises for expansion, he suggested that they should establish SK IJ Convent 2 in Nusajaya for new admissions while the current students remained in the first SK IJ Convent JB. 

Peggy [Left], sisters and brother with grandma
at 154 Jalan Ngee Heng after we came back from school
Built in the 1920’s, the buildings in SK IJ Convent has been renovated and extended to accommodate more and more school needs over the years.  It is interesting that PTA head, Dato’ Awang Hj Omar seemed to emphasise that the school was beyond repair and some areas even posed a danger to students.  But when I asked if they have applied to the Education Department for funds to upgrade the premises, he replied in the negative. 

From the views and sentiments shared at the dialogue, it is prudent and practical for the PIBG and school administration to take the next step in seeking a professional building survey to ascertain the costs involved for the preservation of the school in a heritage building.  If this info is made available to the State Government, parents and the school alumni, who knows what they can do together for the project to preserve the IJ Convent primary school in its original premises?  

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 12 November 2012


  1. Peggy,

    Thanks for your Convent Crusade. Where are the other Convent past students? Convent is a global icon & one alma mater that has produced great leaders. We need to appreciate legacy & heritage & not be blinded bythe pursuit of materialism.

  2. It was great to read in Star today letters column dated 15.11.12 on Sultan's comments to preserve Convent in it's present site. Adios greedy unscrupulous politicians!!