St Xavier's Institution, George Town, Penang, present building dating from 1954 (20 March, 2004)
The St. Xavier's Institution (GPS: 5.42076, 100.33684), or Sekolah Menengah St Xavier, is the oldest Roman Catholic boys school in Malaysia. A Catholic school, the precursor of St Xavier's Institution, was established way back in 1787 by the initial group of Eurasian Catholics led by French priest Father Arnold Garnault, who was invited by Francis Light himself to settle in Penang (the Catholics were facing religious persecution in Phuket. They had relocated to Kuala Kedah at the time when Light established Penang.) That early Catholic school was run by Catholic priests, and lessons were conducted in Malay.
The school in its present incarnation traces its roots to the De La Salle Brothers movement, an Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools which was founded by St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle (1679 - 1719) for providing education to the working class and the poor. The La Salle Christian Brothers were to set up many schools in Malaya, many of which are today among the best education institutons in their respective towns, among them the St Michael's Institution in Ipoh, and St Joseph's Institution in Singapore (today's Singapore Art Museum).
The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools took over the running of the Catholic school in 1852, when Father Dr J.B. Boucho extended an invitation to three De La Salle Christian Brothers. The school was renamed the St. Francis Xavier's Free School (as opposed to the Penang Free School started by the Anglican Reverend Hutchings). In 1857, the St Francis Xavier's Free School relocated to its present premises on Farquhar Street.
During World War II, the original St Xavier's school building was taken over by the Japanese troops as their naval base. This attracted Allied bombing in December 1941, totally destroying it and it was left unoccupied throughout the remainder of the Japanese Occupation.
The new St. Xavier's Institution building dates from 1954, a hundred and two years after the La Salle Christian Brothers took over its running. In August 2006, the teachers and students of St Xavier's Institution held a night heritage walk around the school neighbourhood, to collect funds for their school renovation. They were seeking to collect RM500,000 of which they hoped to raise RM200,000 from the heritage walk.
In addition to St Xavier's Institution, the La Salle Christian Brothers also established two primary schools in Penang namely the St Xavier's Branch School (1907) and the La Salle School, which later became the St Xavier's Primary School (1962).
Jean-Baptiste de La Salle Memorial
On the grounds of St Xavier's Institution is the Jean-Baptiste de La Salle Memorial honouring St John Baptist, who was proclaimed Patron of Teachers in 1950. It through the institution he established that St Xavier's Institution was founded.
Bro. Charles Garden
Compound of the St Xavier's Institution which was named in honour of the late Brother Charles Levin. For more details, go to page on Brother Charles Garden.
St Jean-Baptiste de La Salle Memorial, St Xavier's Institution (20 March, 2004)
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