“The Garland School”
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a growing number of Chinese families entered Sarawak and many Hakkas settled to the South of Kuching. Some of them were Christians from the Churches of the Basel Mission. In 1898 a Basel Mission catechist, Kong Kui En, arrived. The Rajah did not allow the Anglican and Roman Catholic priests to visit the Hakka Settlements, but some of the Chinese began to attend services at St. Thomas’ Church as soon as they reached the neighborhood, and Kong Kui En went with them. He very soon was appointed Anglican catechist, and in 1899 he and some of the other were confirmed. A Christian school was started, two miles from the town.
Kong Kui En, who was ordained in 1931, had the main pastoral responsibility for the Chinese planters and their families, even after the Rajah allowed the clergy to visit them, in 1899. He encouraged the small Chinese medium school. For many years the master and catechist was Wong Shin Fon. The school was surrounded by gardens, piggeries and fish-ponds and after the land was secured to the school by the government grant in 1917, rubber trees were planted.
In 1913, Wong Syn Fon’s Chinese Medium School was given a new building when 300 pounds was received anonymously for its endowment. It was learnt that the donation was from the family of Mr. D de F Garland (who had worked for the Borneo Co. Ltd) in his memory From that time it was call the Garland school. Wong Shin Fon retired in 1926, and Chon En Hyuk took charge. His brother, Chong En Lin succeeded him in 1928, but En Hyuk continued to take afternoon classes in English. At that time there was a Chinese medium morning school, and an English medium afternoon school. Kong Choon Sang taught English for several years. Children who tapped rubber in the mornings would come to the afternoon school. The fees were $2:00 per month. As there had been only one schoolroom, En Lin had an extension built to provide additional teachers’ quarters and another classroom. By 1924 the number of pupils had reached 120. English was introduced into its curriculum.
Garland School had a good reputation as a vernacular school among the Chinese. Its numbers maintained at about sixty, and some of the boys later went to St. Thomas School. Its building were new and in very sound conditions but its equipment leaves something to be desired, being old-fashioned and in parts dilapidated.
As there wasn’t enough teachers during the year, Old Reader, Wong Shin Fon stepped into the breach, and is now carrying on temporarily, until a suitable teacher can be obtained from North Borneo or China.
Father Kong Kui En returned to China in 1936, and the Hakka ministry was continued by his nephew, Father Paul Chong En Siong, who visited the Garland School regularly for Christian instruction and to celebrate the Eucharist.
Chong En Lin left in 1938 and went to Sandakan where he was tragically beheaded in 1945. Ngui Chen Voon took charge until going to Miri at the end of 1939. Father Chong En Siong was transferred to Kudat in May 1940, and the Garland School was put under the management of a Chinese committee, with priests from the Cathedral still going there to give religious teaching. The boys provided the choir and server for the Sunday Chinese Eucharist in the Cathedral. On March 27th and 28th 1940, a concert was given in the Lilian Theatre, the proceeds of which was used to do extension work for the school.
During the Japanese occupation, the school was closed but not destroyed. Catechist Chong En Shin, who had arrived from China at the beginning of 1940, held services there every Sunday, cycling from 18th mile each week in order to do so. Early in 1945 a Japanese, who married a local Chinese girl and living in the teachers’ quarters, warned En Shin that the Kempetai planned to take action against the Christian congregation, so in April or May the services ceased.
In 1941, during the Japanese occupation, thirty students of St. Thomas’ boarders from Miri and North Borneo could not get away. As the boarders could not continue to stay in St. Thomas’s School, Garland School was used to house until they could be sent safety home.
After war, the Chinese Christians in the Sungai Maong area ran the school for two years. Mr. Chin from Hong Kong was the teacher, and no English was taught. At the beginning of 1948, the school was handed back to the Church. Father Chong En Shin, who had been ordained in June 1947, became supervisor, and gave regular religious instruction at the school. Yap Yee Thin became Headmaster.
In 1958, the new school building was opened at the Batu Kawa Road. It was hoped to attract more children to the school, but there was no great demand for Chinese medium education in area, so in 1965, Mr. Yap started English medium instruction in Primary One.
Miss Kathleen Chong, a daughter of Father Chong En Siong became headmistress of the school, having taken over from Mr. Yap in 1966, and there were 71 names on the roll.
It was an alternate year intake school, having three classes and two teachers. Nine pupils were selected for secondary education from the first English Medium Primary 6 class in 1970, and they were sent to St. Thomas’ and St. Mary’s School.
(Rujukan Majalah SeGar 100th Anniversary SK Garland)