by Karen Lee Huey Shyan
Canossa Convent urgently needs funds to reinforce the foundation of the school hall and library block, which are in danger of collapsing. The beams and pillars are significantly exposed, and action has to be taken fast before any untoward incidents happen. A fund raising dinner will held on the 28th April 2007 in Malacca.I remembered vividly how I used to describe to my colleagues and university mates that my secondary school was like a lighthouse by the edge of the sea. The freezing cold morning air and the lapping of the waves were the sounds that greeted me every time I stepped into the school compound. Located on the highest floor of the school building, my classroom overlooked the sprawling houses in Portuguese Settlement and had a really magnificent view of the Straits of Malacca.
For details, please contact Siok Hoon (012 – 6218909) or siokhoon_chin(at)yahoo.com. Donations can be made to ‘SMK Canossa Convent (Funds Account)’ and sent to:
SMK Canossa Convent, Perkampungan Portugis, Ujong Pasir, 75050 Melaka.
Standing just merely five meters away from the sea, SMK Canossa Convent, metaphorically, has served as guiding light, as a beacon of hope, for the many lost ‘ships’ in their voyage through life be it spiritually, academically or socially.
I had schoolmates who were Portuguese, Chinese educated Chinese, English educated Chinese (they were from Chinese Medium Primary Schools and Primary Convent Schools respectively), Malays, Hindu Indians, Christian Indians, Baba Nyonyas etc. You named it; we were truly a melting pot. And through this melting pot, we learnt the lessons of racial tolerance to the extent that each festive season was the highlight of our otherwise ordinary school life. We would organize cycling expeditions through the kampungs and paddy fields as we visited our schoolmates and enjoyed the delicious delicacies prepared by different races.
It was also this ‘muhibbah’ spirit, which spurred us on as we made it a point to have festive concerts in our school hall come every festive season.
While we did not have many students with strings of ‘A’s, what we lacked academically, we made it up by excelling in sports and extra-curricular activities. Our school’s volley team was one of the best in Malacca. Coached by the ever popular and charismatic Mr. Lee, though the going was tough, the team players played their guts out at every match and tournament. Not forgetting the huge turnout by the cheerleading students from all age group, we had so much fun supporting our favourite team.
I remembered we were champions in the Malacca English Drama Competition for three years in a row. All thanks to teachers like Mrs. Joan Chong, Mrs. Koh, Mrs. Doris Tan and many others who poured their hearts and souls making diamonds from rough stones like us. Many of us students also sacrificed our time forgoing all other engagements and spending days getting all the lines ready and preparing our props and costumes. I wonder how is the situation like now in my alma mater?
I was in the science stream and my, my classmates and I were really an outspoken lot. We made our presence felt in school by being vocal about a lot of things. We were quite a notorious lot and no one wanted to be our form teacher, fearing that we were too much to handle probably. Which was all the more why we respected Mrs. Seow because she gave us the benefit of the doubt. She didn’t see us as a bunch of misfits but rather like a bunch of youngsters enjoying the emancipation of women to the maximum.
Mrs. Seow, may you rest in peace.
But to me, the person I revered the most was and still is my former Principal, Sister Esther Thomazios. I was really touched by her undying effort and her utmost commitment in bringing out the best in us. She displayed such uncanny ability in making something out of nothing, making Canossa Convent one of the best-kept and organized schools in Malacca.
Two years ago, Canossa Convent celebrated its 100 anniversary of the arrival of the Canossian Sisters in Malaysia. We had a huge gathering amongst the ex students of the school. We also invited the Canossian Sisters from all over Malaysia (Kluang, Malacca, Monfort Boys Town etc) and Singapore to grace the event.
No words can described the feeling of being able to meet our former teachers again and catching up with old classmates and friends, looking at how some of us prosperous horizontally (pun intended) with growing families and sadly, some who had left us to be with God. I was moved to tears when I saw many of the Canossian Sisters I knew like Sister Dorothy, Sister Geraldine and Sister Esther and how they have made a lifetime commitment to the betterment of the unprivileged.
Canossa Convent is located right in the heart of Portuguese Settlement. Unlike now where many dwellers of the settlement are much more affluent, twenty years ago, the main source of income for most of the Portuguese families came from the sea, as most of them were fishermen. Many families could hardly earn enough to sustain a living. Low literacy rate and high dropout rate were common among their children. Not to mention, there were many social problems in the community like alcohol and drug addiction, gangsterism, marital problem etc.
The Canossian Sisters from Canossa Convent were there at a time when the community needed them most. They have been like the light at the end of the tunnel, a beacon of hope when all were in despair. Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers alike respected the Canossian Sisters. Masses were conducted weekly at the school hall for the community. Fund raising projects were organized to keep the poor fed and clothed. Extra tuition classes were held for the weaker students. Counseling sessions were conducted to improve relationship and more importantly, all were welcomed with open arms by the Sisters. Regardless of race, religion and status, the Canossian Sisters have shown that what God has provided for us, we need to give it back to the community.
Via, Veritas, Vita. The Truth, The Way and The Light. Canossa Convent’s motto. My school’s motto. I finally realize what it meant.
Karen Lee is currently a full time homemaker and a part time teacher. In the midst of her busy schedule, she feels compelled to write about social and environmental issues that touch her heart. She can be contacted at karenleehs(at)yahoo.com