Today marks the 193rd anniversary of the founding of the Penang Free School by the Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings. Therefore, it's only seven more years until my Alma Mater reaches its bicentenary, the first English school in South-East Asia to do so.
Last year, George Town became the centre of focus as it was accorded World Heritage city status by UNESCO. It was a proud moment for all Penangites. This year, however, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture with its "infinite wisdom" decided that the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur should become a national heritage site, bypassing the Penang Free School. I treat it as an afront by the Ministry which had obviously not made a fair decision based on historical facts. After all, what is Heritage if it is not Historical?
Penang has always been at the forefront of education and the Penang Free School continues to lead in this field not only by virtue of it being the oldest English school in the country (founded on 21 Oct 1816) but also by the illustrious sons it had produced. Victoria Institution's tenure pales by comparison as it was founded only 77 years later. So this national heritage snub comes as a surprise to me and all others who are Old Boys of the school. It's wishful thinking, however, that the Ministry will put political considerations aside and accord the rightful status to the Penang Free School.