School promotes racial interaction with simple greetings

GEORGE TOWN - Like most pupils in Chinese schools, those in SJK (C) Chung Shan in Bayan Lepas greet each other with a chao an ("good morning" ) and say xie xie when they thank others.

The only difference is: there could be no Chinese children involved in the conversation.

Of the school's 209 pupils, 77 are Malay and 20 others are of Indian and other origins.

School principal Eng Phaik Kim said they had been taught to interact with each other to showcase the diverse cultural mix in Malaysia.

"It is not uncommon for Malay students to be enrolled in our school because we are near a Malay kampung," she said.

AirAsia engineer Hisham Basir, 41, said he chose the school for his seven-year-old daughter because he wanted her to mingle with the other races.

"Besides, the school also has fewer pupils," he said.

The school's student affairs senior assistant Ch'ng Tin Tin said Malay parents sent their children to Chinese schools because they wanted them to learn the language.

Furthermore, the teachers were very strict, she said.

"I asked one Malay parent why he chose our school instead of national schools or Tamil schools around the area. He explained that a friend had told him that this is a good school," she said.

On a separate matter, the school's board of directors chairman Tan Lai Theng said the school would be moving to Jalan Rajawali in Bayan Lepas to make way for the Penang International Airport's expansion project by 2016.

"We received a letter from the Penang Airport in 2011, saying it needed our land for the expansion project.

"We applied to the state government for the land along Jalan Rajawali on Dec 5, 2012 and it was approved in April last year," he said.

The school is currently waiting for the land office's approval.

"Once we have the approval, we can start to apply for the permit to build the new school," he said.

The new building on a 1.89ha site will be slightly bigger than the existing one with 32 classrooms compared with only 14 classrooms.

For the record, SJK Chung Shan was established in 1951 on a 10-acre piece of land donated by philanthropist Yeap Chor Ee.