A Chinese primary school headmistress was shocked to read “Speak Mandarin” stickers pasted on the walls of SJKC Choon Hwa when she reported to the school last year.
Chen Shu Hui discovered later that the stickers were put on to encourage pupils in the school, all non-Chinese, to speak Mandarin.
Non-Chinese parents living in Batu 18, Ulu Langat, send their children to SJK(C) Choon Hwa to study while the last Chinese pupil in the school graduated six years ago!
Since then, the school has gone without any Chinese pupil.
Although the medium of instruction used at the Chinese school is Mandarin, the non-Chinese pupils who attend SJK(C) Choon Hwa do not have any foundation in the language.
They have no classmates to speak in Mandarin to and their parents are Chinese illiterate.
In order to help the pupils learn Chinese, Chen placed many Chinese picture story books and kindergarten books in the school compound.
“Teachers are to teach according to the pupils’ standard in class and we are unable to assess them using normal standard for a Chinese primary school. Their confidence will be affected,” said Chen.
Established in 1930s, SJKC Choon Hwa used to have more than a hundred pupils during its better days.
Now the school is left with only 39 Malay and five orang asli pupils.
The school planned for relocation more than 20 years ago, but the groundbreaking ceremony was held at the new location only on March 26 this year.
Cheong Yew Hon, chairman of the school board for 16 years, said the relocation plan started when he was the chairman of the school’s parent-teacher association.
Residents of Batu 18, Ulu Langat new village were the ones who sent their children to the school, but after the Chinese new village was relocated elsewhere, the school no longer had Chinese pupils.
“We will not be able to answer to our ancestors who spent their hard-earned money to set up the school. I have never given up on relocating the school,” said Cheong.
The plan finally took off when Tan Sri Ong Tee Keat offered to help relocate the school to Pandan in 2006.
Then education minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced the relocation of 18 Chinese primary schools, including SJKC Choon Hwa, in 2008 before the general election.
The school board followed up with the Selangor education department on the relocation plan from 2008 to 2010.
Among the reasons cited by the officers was that the land in Pandan had been reserved for national primary school and not vernacular school. Besides, relocation required the consent from all parents of the school.
The school board faced numerous obstacles and challenges in the process until the ground-breaking ceremony of the school was held in March this year, said Cheong.