Assunta Primary 2 is a thriving government school in a mixed suburb of Petaling Jaya, which was originally developed as a township of Kuala Lumpur and which, to the untutored eye, feels as if it is part of the capital.
The school, built in the 1960s, was designed for an equatorial climate thereby enabling school life to be conducted both in closed classrooms and large spaces open to the outside, such as the dining area. As is very common in Malaysia, in order to reduce the burden of building costs, two different schools – Primary 1 and Primary 2 – occupy the same buildings, one starting early in the morning (7.45am – 1pm) and the other early afternoon (1pm – 6.15pm), with the two alternating their shift every year. Each operates with a different head, staff and pupils.
Both are all-girls schools, with pupils starting at the age of six and leaving at 12. Malaysia is a highly multi-racial country, with around 60% Malays, 25% Chinese and 7% Indians. The pupils at Primary 2 are overwhelmingly Malay and Indian who drawn from the surrounding area; all the pupils on the Harinder Veriah Trust scheme are Malay and Indian.
Assunta Primary School was founded in 1955 by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary just before the country gained independence from Britain. In 1960 the school was split into Primary 1, Primary 2, and Assunta Secondary School. Originally a Catholic school run by missionaries, all three schools are now integrated into the public system of education.
Primary 2 is well organised and successful, with around 800 pupils, and its dynamic head teacher, Puan Tan, is justifiably proud of the achievements of her pupils. It performs well in school league tables, and its best pupils go on to success in secondary schools, with the majority proceeding to Assunta Secondary, and beyond. Harinder Veriah was a pupil at both Assunta Primary and Assunta Secondary, and always expressed enormous gratitude for the education she received at the two schools and acknowledged their contribution to the successes she later achieved as a high-flying lawyer.
For all its successes, Primary 2 also has to work hard to combat the effects of poverty among the families of some of its pupils. All too many families struggle to provide the basic necessities for a decent education – uniform, meals, transport costs, books, equipment, and government fees. Many expect their children to contribute to the family budget as early as possible, and cannot provide the kind of environment which helps young children learn and develop.
The neatly-dressed pupils and attractive school environment can mask the very real struggles that some children have to keep abreast of their work – and the state does not provide the kind of wide-ranging practical help that the Trust offers, despite the best efforts of the school staff to encourage the most disadvantaged and needy of the children.
So the school has enthusiastically welcomed the work of the Trust, helping to identify which pupils need assistance and encouraging all aspects of the work of the Trust. The school and the Trust co-operate in the closest possible way.
Since 2014, the Trust is delighted to have extended the scheme to Assunta Secondary School, another all-girls school, with 1200 pupils ranging from 12 to 18. We help those girls who we have previously assisted at Primary 2.
“The HVT teachers are very kind. HVT gives us uniforms, school bags, books and stationery. HVT helps students who are poor.”
Reanuga A/P Pannir Selvam Std 5