The Bukit Nanas Convent stands atop one of the many hills in the city of Kuala Lumpur. The school and buildings are owned by the Catholic Mission but sit on top of state land which was leased to the school. The lease would have expired in September 2021. An application to extend the lease was rejected by the authorities. An application for judicial review was filed on April 7 on behalf of the Lady Superior of the Society of Saint Maur, the corporate entity operating the Convent Bukit Nanas School.
Last week, the government decided to extend the lease for another 60 years.
The government’s intervention to extend the lease eases the tension, at least for that school, that exists between government control over education and the position of mission schools. The extension of the lease for another 60 years, which is about two generations, might see, one hopes, the development of more mature and progressive policies on education that will not require old and established schools to up and leave their buildings or seek the intervention of a court or government.
There are also other forces than government policies in operation. Bukit Nanas stands in the centre of the most valuable real estate in the country. The temptation for developers to demolish the school and dig and build new and highly lucrative structures cannot be easily thwarted by the type of sentiments that drive to preserve a school that is iconic. Religion would be another force that threatens the school and its prime location. But for now, one must bow deeply to the wisdom that has extended the lease of the land on which the school stands. One can only hope that the wisdom will prevail for another 60 years when it is time again to renew the lease.