GEORGE TOWN, June 24 — The various stakeholders in the three convent schools facing closure should be given time and space to discuss the matter, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said.
He said the Education Ministry will need time to make any decisions with regards to the schools.
“The state government, as mentioned before, will only meet with the landowner in July to listen to what they plan to do before we decide on how we can cooperate in this matter,” he said in a press conference at Penang Development Corporation (PDC).
Chow will be meeting representatives from The Lady Superior of the Society of St Maur on July 19 to discuss their plans for the school land.
He was commenting on the impending closure of SK Convent Light Street, SMK Convent Light Street and SMK Convent Pulau Tikus after the landowner takes back the lands these schools are on.
When asked about a proposal for the state to acquire the lands so that the schools can remain open, Chow said it can only happen if the state acquired the land and surrendered it to the Education Ministry to turn the schools into national schools.
The convent schools were mission schools that were partially funded by the government.
Citing speculations published in the last few days on the landowner’s plans for the school lands, Chow said that maybe they could transform the school buildings into an international or private school.
“Based on press reports, the landowner decided that they didn’t want to continue because of the changed characteristics of the school now and they think it doesn’t reflect the original purpose of setting up the schools,” he said.
He said this is the case with partial government-funded schools, such as vernacular schools, that do not want to surrender their lands so that they have full control over the schools.
He said all partial government-funded schools such as vernacular schools are on lands owned by the respective school boards, while the government was only involved in sending teachers and administrative staff.
“Even if they have problems in funding, they would not surrender the lands as they want to maintain full control on the vernacular schools,” he said.
The three convent schools are slotted for full closure by 2024 and have stopped taking in students.