KUCHING (Nov 2): The St. Joseph’s School in Kuching, like any other mission schools in Sarawak are reflections of Sarawakians’ ability to appreciate and celebrate their differences, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
“That’s the beauty of our beautiful Sarawak and it is the onus on all of us to protect this unique way of life as Sarawakians.
“Let not all that happen outside Sarawak that causes anxiety and division in society be a reason for us in Sarawak to be fragmented along religious and racial lines,” he said when launching the RM5.7 million newly restored Mill Hill Block at St Joseph Secondary School today.
His text of speech was read by Local Government and Housing Minister Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also the Old Josephian Association chairman.
Among those present were Old Boys of St Joseph including Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Amar Michael Michael Jawong, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, former deputy chief minister Datuk Patinggi Dr George Chan and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching Simon Poh.
Abang Johari revealed that St Joseph’s School holds a special place in his heart as he was a student there in 1970 when the late Brother Columba was the principal.
“I am sure some of you were under his stewardship before, would know and feel the love and dedication given by him and his predecessors into educating every child who came into this school. Indeed, it is a privilege and an honour to be a part of this legacy,” he said.
He also recorded his appreciation specifically to all the Mill Hill Fathers who came not only to fulfil their missionary work but also to bring education to Sarawakians.
He said students then did not only sit for their Cambridge Junior Examination but also everyone who qualified had a chance to pursue further and thereafter to return and serve in the different departments of development in Sarawak.
“I believe it is the balanced education provided in St. Joseph that built strong and outstanding characters. To mention but a few famous sons, our beloved Governor Tun Pehin Sri Taib Mahmud, the late “Tok Nan” (Pehin Sri Adenan Satem), the late Datuk Polycarp Sim and many others are the exceptional product of St. Joseph’s School,” he said.
He added gratitude and appreciation also goes to the La Salle Brothers who took the school to new heights after the Mill Hill Fathers.
Under La Salle Brothers, he said in 1952 St. Joseph became the first school in Sarawak to enrol science candidates for the School Certificate Examination.
Subsequently, in 1953, the first Form 6 class was started to house students from different parts of Sarawak.
“Engrained in the spirit of providing for `The last, the lost and the least`, they continued to make the school a haven where students of all races come together to learn and grow holistically regardless of the faith they belonged too,” said Abang Johari.
On the Mill Hill Block, he said it is indeed a priceless historical building in Sarawak, making St Joseph’s School as one of the 10 oldest mission schools in Malaysia.
He said for the old boys of this school, the Mill Hill Block is something precious to them in their life as a student in the school.
“Dating to way back in 1886, it is a two-storey wooden building which very quickly rebuilt to become a three-story brick building in 1895. The designer, the late Father Haidegger, I was told, had personally supervised the main block of this building to completion.
“And at that time, this building was said to be `the biggest in Sarawak`. Before long in 1927, two new wings were added to the main block resulting in what we see today.
“We are standing or seated before a 139-year old building which is not just a physical sight we view with admiration and awe but one which carries the depth of history, identity, heritage and memories we are very proud of,” he said.
He congratulated all the different parties who have made an enormous collective effort to restore the Mill Hill Block namely the architects, engineers, school leaderships, Old Boys and all generous contributors.
He was also proud that St Joseph’s Secondary School has continued to fly high under the leadership of equally capable local school heads while many students have achieved great things.
“Indeed, it is my hope to see this magnificently restored building continue to serve many more generations of Sarawakians and to produce even more great leaders who will bring this beloved state to new levels of glory locally and globally.
“I wish to emphasise yet again, the importance of education in nation-building and strongly believe it is only through knowledge and wisdom that everyone can be empowered to take control of their lives and to advance their livelihoods,” he said.
The three-storey high Mill Hill Block comprises the main building in the centre with two wings.
The main building was declared open in 1894 by Rajah Charles Brooke, the Second White Rajah of Sarawak. In 1927, the three-storey two wings were added.
Its significance to the history of Sarawak had seen it gazetted as a Heritage Building in 2010 under the Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance 1993.
Efforts to restore Mill Hill Block began in 2019 after it was found the main building, needed repairs while the two wings had significantly deteriorated.
Sarawak state government contributed RM4 million to the restoration project, while RM350,000 came from the federal government. Funds raised by the Old Boys and other parties were RM1.413 million which contributed to a total RM5.76 million raised for the project.
The newly restored building now houses the main office and management office, teachers` room, several classrooms and lecture hall. There are also the Heritage Gallery, rooms in honour of Brother Columba and Brother Albinus and the La Salle Lounge.-The Borneo Post
Mission schools reflections of S’wakians’ ability to celebrate differences, says CM By Samuel Aubrey on November 2, 2021, Tuesday at 1:15 PM Sarawak ADVERTISEMENT Dr Sim (centre) cuts the ribbon to declare open the restored Mill Hill Block.
Dr Sim (centre) rings the bell as an opening gimmick, as (from left) Dr Chan. Poh, Manyin and Abdul Karim look on.