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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Nov 2: Mill Hill Block, the 139-year-old bones of St Joseph Secondary School, is breathing a new life today following the completion of an extensive restoration and renovation works that were meticulously completed to meet contemporary needs while keeping the historic fabric intact.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that St Joseph School like any other mission schools in the State are reflections of Sarawak’s ability to appreciate and celebrate its peoples’ differences and diversities.
“That’s the beauty of our beautiful Sarawak and it is the onus on all of us to protect this unique way of life as Sarawakians.
“Let not all that happened outside Sarawak that causes anxiety and division in society be a reason for us in Sarawak to be fragmented along religious and racial lines,” he advised in his text-of-speech read by for Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian at the launching of the newly restored Mill Hill Block at St Joseph Secondary School today.
Being one of the 10 oldest mission schools in Malaysia, the Mill Hill Block started as a two-storey wooden building way back in 1886. It was rebuilt to become a three-storey brick building in 1895.
“The designer, the late Father Haidegger, I was told, had personally supervised the main block of this building’s completion.
“And at that time, the building was said to be ‘the biggest in Sarawak’. Before long in 1927, two new wings were added to the main block resulting in what we see today.
“We are standing or seated before a 139-year-old building which is not just a physical sight we view with admiration and awe but one which carries the depth of history, identity, heritage and memories we are very proud of,” he said.
The restoration project which cost RM5.7 million and started in 2019 has been materialised with the contribution of RM4 million from the Sarawak government, RM350,000 from the Federal government and RM1.41 million raised by fellow Josephians, ex-Josephians, corporate entities, elected representative and the public through various activities.
Quoting Nelson Mandela’s wise words who said “it always seems impossible until it is done”, Abang Johari congratulated all the different parties involved including architects, engineers, school leaderships, the Old Boys and all generous contributors who have made this enormous collective effort to restore the old building.
“Surely, the preservation process has been challenging but again it proves that nothing is impossible when everyone puts their hearts and mind into making it a reality.
“The result as we see today is an amazing effort by everyone who has contributed to this successful restoration,” he said.
Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Datuk Amar Michael Manyin Jawong, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Datuk Patinggi Dr George Chan, Archbishop Simon Poh, St Joseph’s Secondary School Board of Management chairman Reverend Father Felix Au and principal Henry Chai were among those present.— DayakDaily