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St Bernadette’s Convent, Batu Gajah
Around 1945 a small number of boys and girls attended classes at a wooden shed, in St Josephs Church compound. This ‘school’ known locally as St Joseph's School, comprised of 3 classes and 3 teachers, and they were supervised by the then Parish Priest of St Joseph's - Rev Father Cordeira. Later on, the boys were sent to other schools, while the girls remained. This then prompted the new Parish Priest, Rev Father Philip Lee, to invite the Holy Infant Jesus (HIJ) Sisters from the Main Convent in Ipoh to take over the school. About a year later, the school was formally named St Bernadette's Convent.
In 1952, Rev Mother St Paul (one of the Founders) managed to get a piece of land (the present location at Jalan Pusing). By this time, the school had 6 classrooms; Sister St Ignatius and 3 teachers were in charge. With donations from generous individuals, the 1st block of St Bernadettes Convent was built on the new piece of land. The 1st block, ready in 1953, had 10 classrooms. Some of the former students would recall having to carry tables and chairs from St Josephs Church compound, through jungle and across the main road to the new school.
Like the Main Convent in Ipoh, the enrolment at St Bernadette's also increased over the years. Hence, more classes had to be built:
In 1955, another block was added to the 1st block. This new block housed 10 classrooms, a staffroom and laboratory and 6 toilets.
A year later, 5 more classes were added; the Form 4 students (of 1957) continued Form 5 at the Sultan Yussuf School.
In 1959, the Primary and Secondary school separated; and by 1963 another block was built - with more classrooms, a Home Science room, a Sewing room, a Hall and a Chapel.
The HIJ sisters used to reside in the Main Convent (in Ipoh) and travel everyday to Batu Gajah to teach. They had a special blue school bus, which was driven by Mr Peter - Mr Peter later became the school gardener at St Bernadette's. Similar to the Main Convent, the administration of the school by the HIJ sisters ended when Sister Colman - the longest serving Principal - retired in 1973. Sr Colman was replaced with Mrs Verghese. In 1976, the Physics, Chemistry and Biology labs were built. Intriguingly, St Bernadette's school is built on 3 parallel blocks on a slope - with the field on the highest level.
To learn more about the Holy Infant Jesus Convent (Main Convent) Ipoh, click here.
To learn more about the Sultan Yussuf School, click here.
To learn more about Sister Colman, click here.