Last week, several prominent Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) alumni joined forces on social media in protest against the initial decision not to renew the historic school's lease. Twitter was abuzz with individuals sharing a petition to save the school from demolition, while others like CBN alumni and author Hanna Alkaf, parliamentarian Maria Chin Abdullah, journalist Tehmina Kaoosji as well as medical doctor and 2020 Women of the Future Award UK finalist Dr. Hannah Nazri spoke out about the situation.
"Simple in virtue, steadfast in duty". CBN motto. It is now our duty to save our school.— Ambiga Sreenevasan (@Ambiga_S) April 19, 2021
Following the announcement by the Prime Minister's Office that CBN's lease will be extended for another 60 years after its current lease expires on September 6, 2021, we hear from Lim Wei-Ling, president of the Malaysian Heritage Trust (Badan Warisan Malaysia) about the power and impact of Malaysian voices on important issues like this, and the significance of preserving historical institutions for future generations.
Tell us about the architectural history of Convent Bukit Nanas school.
CBN shifted to its present site in Bukit Nanas in 1909. The school was built by the Public Works Department (Jabatan Kerja Raya) and designed by two government architects, a Mr Huxley assisted by Mr Kesteven who also designed Bangunan Sulaiman on Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin in 1926 and the Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque in Klang in 1933. The school echoes the style of Gothic-European monasteries and colleges where the European missionary nuns came from.
Why is CBN an important piece of Malaysian heritage?
CBN had educated numerous leaders of our nation. There are illustrious alumni out there who have helped shape our country. In fact, the whole of Bukit Nanas must be preserved as an entity. It has always been an educational enclave and no more development should be allowed. To do away with CBN is akin to cutting the nostril of one of KL's educational icons.
How did you initially react when you heard that CBN's lease would not be renewed?
My council and I were deeply concerned that Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia may lose another important historical building if the lease on the land was not extended. Now that we know the lease has been extended by another 60 years, it is imperative that the buildings that make up CBN are preserved in their original state.