Three Penang missionary schools facing demolition after land sold off

A year 1 student of Sjk Chung Hwa in Penang seem sleepy on his first day of school as today is the first day school reopen in Penang, January 2, 2014. — Picture by K.E. Ooi
A year 1 student of Sjk Chung Hwa in Penang seem sleepy on his first day of school as today is the first day school reopen in Penang, January 2, 2014. — Picture by K.E. Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 24 — Three historic missionary schools here have frozen their intakes in preparation for their demolition in a decade’s time, according to the state education department director Osman Hussain.

The three schools — St Marks Secondary School in Butterworth,Balik Pulau and Pykett Methodist Primary School in George Town — are set to make way for development as the land they occupy have been sold off to developers, Osman said.

“The original landowners of these schools have sold off the land so we have no choice but to close down these schools at its original sites and look for alternative locations to relocate it,” he said when contacted.

This issue was first brought to light by the Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group that urged the state government to intervene and stop the proposed development projects.

“We are a federal agency so we can’t do much about land matters as it falls under the purview of the state government,” Osman said of the land sale and impending closure of the schools.

The department is currently looking for alternative sites for the schools and is already constructing two new school buildings in Balik Pulau to replace the St George School that caters to both primary and secondary level.

Currently, the St George School, which was set up by the Catholic Church, has about 600 students who are expected to move to the new school once it is completed by 2017. The St George School was constructed in 1936 and is located opposite the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus.

In George Town, the Pykett Methodist Primary School was founded by Reverend B. H. Balderstone in 1891 as part of the Anglo-Chinese School Penang of Methodist Boys School. The school was relocated several times over the years before it settled on its current location in Westland Road in 1957.

Osman confirmed that the primary school that currently has about 200 students, has already stopped taking in Year One students while the department is looking for a new location to relocate the school.

The last of the three, the St Mark’s secondary school in Butterworth, with about 1,000 students studying there now, was established in 1885.

The school’s field was already sold to a housing developer, but the school building belongs to the state education department.

Osman said the department had asked the landowner, the Anglican Church, to give it 10 years to relocate the school to another site.

It is learnt the church has plans to sell the remaining school land to the developer.

Osman hoped the federal government would allocate a piece of land for the school, possible where the current Air Force base is located in Teluk Air Tawar as the base is earmarked to be relocated to Ara Kuda.

“Otherwise, we will look elsewhere to relocate the school,” he said.

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