Home / Special Reports
Growing up in St Francis Convent and Sacred Heart Boys School
Published on: Saturday, March 25, 2017

By Tan Sri Richard A Lind
I AM honoured and privileged to have been invited to put pen and paper of my experiences of my childhood days at the St Francis’ Convent, Jesselton, from 1925 to 1932.

I was then three years old when my father, Theodore Adolphus Lind, sent me along with my two sisters and two brothers to the care of the white sisters.

If my memory serves me right, the Mother Superior of the Convent at the time was Rev Mother Stanislaus who passed away at the convent in early 1930s. Upon her death, Mother St Alban was appointed as the Mother Superior. It is still fresh in my mind, Rev Mother Stanislaus was a kind and loveable person, compared with Mother St Alban who was tough and strict.

Those years of my stay in the convent had a profound and long lasting influence upon my life to this day.

St Francis Convent was established in 1923 at Jesselton under the Roman Catholic Mission and has provided a wonderful community service. Many of the less fortunate of our society benefited from the Convent’s provision of home and education.

Life in the convent under the sisters was good and despite the meagre resources, we were well looked after.

Accommodation was adequate and living conditions were reasonably good. Within the restrictions of their budget, the Sisters took great care of our diets. Breakfast normally consisted of rice porridge with salted fish for lunch and dinner – we were normally fed a little meat and vegetables.

School hours were from 8am to 12 noon and 1pm to 3.30pm. Our day would start with approximately one hour of religious tuition followed by lessons in reading, simple arithmetic etc. Older students studied religious knowledge, arithmetic, geography, written composition, needlework and cooking.

The Convent’s basic philosophy was to give the children a good Christian upbringing to ensure they become good citizens. In addition to schoolwork, older girls were required to contribute to the running of the convent by gardening and cleaning classrooms. Upon completions of their Standard IV, most girls were allowed to return home to their families. Some, who chose to get married, were helped by the Sisters who exercised extreme care to ensure they would have good married lives.

Maintenance of discipline was an essential factor in the smooth running of the convent.

To that end, anyone found breaking the rules of the school was severely punished.

Despite this regime of discipline, I recall the convent as being a happy place. There was often the merriment and fun of children playing games.

At the Sacred Heart Boys School, the facilities at the school were also quite basic.

There was no bathroom and the boys had to travel about 300 yards outside the school in order to take their bath from a well.

The boys’ school also only has three classrooms. These served for the delivery of all lessons for students studying Standard III, IV, V and VI. Junior students studying Standard I and II were relegated to receiving tuition in a room doubled as a locker room-cum-dining hall. Despite the basic conditions, the priests did their best to deliver good quality education.

Upon Fr Unterberger’s appointment as Rector of Sacred Heart Boys School in 1931 new classrooms were built to accommodate an increasing number of students. The standard of education was also upgraded to incorporate the delivery of a full programme of studies for boys from primary to secondary standard VI.

The education programme upgrade saw the school become an important source of clerks for the government. Over the years hundred of boys went on to become useful government employees.

Compared with St. Francis Convent, life at Sacred Heart Boys School was harsh. The daily routine consisted of:

5am - Rise and attend ablutions 6am - Church Service 7.30am - Breakfast (normally rice porridge) 8am - Commence lessons 1pm - Lunch (normally rice with salted fish) 2pm - Recommence lessons 3.30pm - School ends 5pm - Dinner (normally rice with salted fish) 6pm-7.30pm - Bedtime

Because the diet was so rudimentary most students would spend much of their spare time seeking food to supplement the diet. The boys would go fishing for fish, prawns and crabs in the waters nearby the school.

On the occasion, I recall a stray dog entering the school compound. That dog was caught, killed and cooked to supplement the rations. Some of the students complained to the Priest about the cooking of dog in the big school wok.

As a result, the cook was sacked and no further dogs were killed for the table. Other supplements to their diet included the collection of fruits.

A primary source was the dozen of mango trees in the school compound. Cooking the boys’ food required fire.

Older boys would be tasked with daily foraging for firewood from the secondary forest above the school.

The education structure lasted many years until the introduction of a La Salle Secondary School after the end of the Second World War. Sacred Heart School then ceased offering secondary education and began concentrating on the formation of a primary school.

This transfer of responsibility did not lower the standard of education being delivered.

La Salle in fact took the high standard even further by being able to offer education at higher levels than before.

Thus students benefited greatly and many went on to attain illustrious careers. Some even became representatives of the people in both Federal and State Governments, which La Salle as a training ground for our future leaders.

The dedication of the priests and sisters must be recognised and admired. Their unstinting devotion to their duties in a strange and harsh country under the most daunting conditions was indeed notable.

These extraordinary men and women of the mission were young and invariably poorly prepared for their life in North Borneo.

They would arrive equipped and dressed for European conditions only to find themselves dressed unsuitably for the tropics. Their retention of faith and dedication to duty must have been sorely tested at times, especially during their early days in this remote, land below the wind.

At the Sacred Heart Boys School, the facilities at the School were also quite basic. There was no bathroom and the boys had to go about 300 yards outside the school to take their bath from a well.

The boys’ school also has 12 classrooms. These served the delivery of all lessons for students studying Standard III, IV, V and VI.

Junior students studying Standard I and II were relegated to receiving tuition in a room which doubled as a locker room-cum-dining hall. Despite the basic conditions, the priests did their best to provide good quality education.

Upon Fr Unterberger’s appointment as Rector of Sacred Heart Boys’ School in 1931, new classrooms were built to accommodate an increasing number of students.

The standard of education was also upgraded to incorporate the delivery of a full programme of studies for boys from primary to secondary Standard VI.

The education programme upgrade saw the school become an important source of clerks for the government.

Over the years hundred of boys went on to become useful Government employed.

Compared with the St Francis Convent, life at Sacred Heart Boys’ School was harsh.

The daily routine consisted of the following:-

5am - Rise and attend ablutions 6am - Church service 7.30am - Breakfast (normally rice porridge) 8am - Commencement of Lessons 1pm - Lunch (normally rice with salted fish) 2pm - Re-commencement of Lessons 3.30pm - School ends 5pm - Dinner (normally rice with salted fish) 6pm-7pm - Study time 8pm - Bedtime

The education structure lasted many years until the introduction of a La Salle Secondary School after the end of the 2nd World War.

Sacred Heart School then ceased offering Secondary education and began concentrating on the formation of a primary school.

This transfer of responsibility did not have the effect of lowering the standard of education being provided.

La Salle, in fact, had continued to improve the high standard offered. The students had benefited from this high standard of education and some became representatives of the people in both the Federal and State Governments which La Salle a training ground for our future leaders.

The dedication of the priests and sisters must be recognised and admired. Their unstinting devotion to their duties in a strange and harsh country under the most daunting conditions was indeed notable.

These extraordinary men and women of the Mission were young and invariably poorly prepared for their life in North Borneo. They would arrive equipped and dressed for European conditions only to find themselves dressed unsuitably for the Tropics.

Their retention of faith and dedication to duty must have been sorely tested at times, especially during their early days in this remote Land Below the Wind.

Features
Forum(15)
Most Read

Advertisement