KUCHING: St Joseph’s Private Primary and Secondary Schools (SJPPSS) commenced operations this year with an inaugural intake of around 140 students after overcoming many hurdles.
Classes commenced on Jan 3.
There are 30 students in Year 1 and eight in Year 2, while the Secondary School has 105 students in Form 1.
To commemorate the historic occasion, a soft opening was held yesterday at the temporary classes building at the old St Joseph Tuition Centre, also attended by parents of the students and well-wishers of the schools.
The event was officiated by former federal minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Leo Moggie Irok who is the chairman of the schools’ board of management and Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin, a board member.
The blessing ceremony was conducted by Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, Reverend John Ha followed by a special mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral.
SJPPSS director Gerald Lee, when approached by reporters, said although a private Catholic school, its doors were open to all communities, not confined to Catholics.
Lee, the former principal of SMK St Joseph, revealed that both private schools (SJPPSS) and public schools (SK St Joseph and SMK St Joseph) would run simultaneously.
Though there are talks that the public schools would also be privatised soon, he said it would not happen.
“At the moment, we do not know whether the government will allow that. But that is our intention,” he said.
To distinguish students from public and private schools, those at SJPPSS primary school wear green and white uniforms, while the secondary school uniforms are white and grey.
According to Lee, these colours are closely associated with the old St Joseph School. To a question, he said SJPPSS would still follow the national syllabus although there would be longer hours for additional classes such as Bible Studies, Character Building and Mandarin.
“We are following the Malaysian syllabus, and the students sit for public examinations conducted by the Ministry of Education. But we are teaching the Singapore syllabus in English. We also have Chinese (Mandarin) which is compulsory for Primary 1 and 2, but optional for those entering Form 1. We also teach Bible Studies, and Character Building,” he said.
He revealed that a Jesuit priest by the name of Father Francis Lim will be coming middle of this year to take up the post of principal of the secondary school. A Franciscan nun, Sister Odilia Ngui, is the headmistress of the primary school.
At the moment, five teachers are in primary school and 30 teachers in secondary school. According to Lee, these teachers are experienced including retirees who teach on contract basis.
Rev John Ha said the new building being constructed at the St Joseph’s rugby field was estimated to cost RM13 million.
They were still short of the amount, though he was grateful for the donations from well-wishers. KTS Group managing director and CEO Dato Henry Lau donated RM1 million. The funds raised enabled the schools to commence operation.
Lee described the first intake as a humble beginning, and was confident the stature of the schools would grow in years to come.
He said SJPPSS was mooted out of the idea to have a Catholic private school due to loss of control at mission schools after they were turned into government-aided schools.
Ha thanked the La Sallian Foundation for allowing its name to be used in applying for the private school licence, which was approved by the Ministry of Education.
Moggie, on behalf of the board of management, said he was happy the schools were allowed to retain the ‘St Joseph’ name which was associated with quality and wholesome education.
According to him, the schooling hours will be from 7.30am to 3.30pm for primary school and 7.30am to 5.30pm for secondary school.
Science and Mathematics would be taught in both English and Bahasa Malaysia in these schools.
“Going forward, more needed to be done (for the schools). On behalf of the Board, I want to say here that we will be doing as much as we can to make this happen,” he said.