The 202-year old Penang Free School (PFS), one of the region’s oldest English medium schools, has been awarded heritage status by the National Heritage Department.

PFS board of governors chairman Abdul Rafique Abdul Karim said it was a great achievement for the school, where many prominent Malaysians had studied.

“This is definitely a proud moment for us, the Old Frees, and everyone who made this a success. I was made to understand that the National Heritage Department will send an official letter on the matter to the school soon,” he told Bernama.

He said any renovation or alteration to the school building would now have to abide by the heritage guidelines.

On Feb 2, the National Heritage Department declared the school, built on an eight-hectare land located in Jalan Masjid Negeri, as a national heritage site, alongside Masjid Alwi in Kangar, Perlis.

The notice of designation of the site as heritage site was dated Jan 18 and undersigned by Heritage Commissioner Zainah Ibrahim for “Lot 2738, Section 6, Penang Free School, George Town”, which is owned by the Federal Land Commissioner.

The notice states that the commissioner received no objection against the designation, adding that the state authority had also consented to it as required under Section 30 of the National Heritage Act 2005.

Rafique expressed gratitude over the federal government’s approval of a RM4 million grant for the school to carry out maintenance works and preserve its old colonial building before its bicentennial celebration in 2016.

“The grant allows us to upgrade the school with new paint, piping and wiring and also to replace the rotten beam,” he said.

PFS was founded by Rev Robert Sparke Hutchings at Love Lane on Oct 21, 1816. It later moved to Farquhar Street, and then to its current location in Jalan Masjid Negeri (formerly Green Lane).

Prominent Old Frees include former Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, actor P. Ramlee, Penang’s second chief minister Dr Lim Chong Eu, former chief justice of Singapore Wee Chong Jin, and former DRB Hicom Bhd managing director, Mohd Khamil Jamil.-BERNAMA

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