Nurturing young women

The Star, July 28, 2008

Assunta Secondary School basks in its rich history as it celebrates its golden anniversary.

EVERY school has a story to tell and Assunta Secondary School’s history owes its uniqueness to her founder Datin Paduka Sister Enda Ryan, who is proud to be able to witness the school in Selangor turning 50 this year.

Sister Enda is quick to acknowledge her hardworking teachers and dedicated students for the school’s success, and rarely singles out the school’s luminaries which include the likes of the Prime Minister’s wife, Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Aziz and Mercy Malaysia president Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood,

Sister Enda recalls the early years back in 1958 when they shared premises with Assunta Primary School before they moved to Jalan Changgai in 1960. Some classes had to be held at the PJ Club and the Sekolah Rendah Lorong Masjid along Jalan Templer.

n jest: Teachers being ‘punished’ for ‘misbehaving’ on Teacher’s Day in 1978. Sister Enda is on the far right

“When we moved, classes were still limited. The teachers had to commute between the primary and secondary schools,” says Sister Enda.

“We shared a Mini Minor with Assunta Hospital and this car was used to transport the teachers back and forth. Back then the teachers didn’t own cars. When the car was needed to transport women in labour or there were requests from the blood bank, priority would be given to the hospital.

The Assunta Military Band performing during Sports Day in 1966

“The teachers would be late for class but the girls enjoyed this and utilised the time to play netball. Perhaps that was the reason why we were the Selangor netball champions from the early to mid-60s!” quips the Irish nun, who is almost 80.

Theresa Chan (Class of 1964) who is now president of the Assunta Alumni recalls how Sister Enda had insisted that the girls take up Domestic Science but the stoves were in Assunta Hospital.

“After recess once a week, we would walk more then 1km from Jalan Changgai to Jalan Templer to attend these classes.”

The extended classrooms even spilled into a neighbouring house.

“Since we didn’t have a piano in the early years, Sister struck a relationship with the Chee family (daughters Agnes and Bernadette – Class 63 and 65 respectively) who lived at the back of the school, so that the girls could attend singing sessions at their house. We would march from the school in an orderly manner, take off our shoes and sing in their living room which had a piano,” Chan reminisces.

Sister Enda loved to sing as she believed music gave the girls the spirit to learn. The first thing we were given, as I remember, by the prefects in Form One were not rule books, but sheets and sheets of songs that we were to sing before assembly.

Sister Enda Ryan used to go after truants in her Clubman Estate

If there’s anything the girls dreaded during assembly, it was to have their names called out for detention. In the early days, they pulled weeds in the school field but during my time it was washing toilets!

As a disciplinarian, Sister Enda used to zoom round in her Clubman Estate to pick up students caught lepaking during school hours.

“In the 60s, it was the Dreamland Snack Bar in New Town, in the 70s they would be at the Asia Jaya Skating Rink, in the 80s it was Jaya Supermarket or Piccadilly (dance club in Damansara Jaya). And their partners in crime would always be the La Salle boys.

“My car had such a bad reputation and having the number plate BAD 513 didn’t help. It was called the Bad May 13th car!” Sister Enda recalls.

Who could forget the sight of Sister Enda playing traffic cop after school. Armed with a loud hailer and whistle, she would yell, “Jalan! Jalan! Cepat! Move it, oh, these blessed parents and buses!”

Sister Enda zealously protected her girls from flashers that roamed the vicinity. She never grew tired of reminding them to be vigilant, especially those who walked to school.

She instilled in her girls the school motto: To Truth Through Charity. In the month of Lent, we would turn baker and sell cakes and cookies in between classes.

Charity Day marked a day-long party during which we set up stalls, held fashion shows and organised horror houses to raise funds for the needy, irrespective of race or religion.

May Tan accepting the MSSM Sportsgirl of the Year Award in 1985 from Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, then the Education Minister

The girls would also use a portion of their class funds to help poor students in the school every month. When there was a disaster or donation drive, the girls were quick to respond.

“In fact, the Fatima Kindergarten in Kampung Muniandy was set up in the 60s through the girls’ fund-raising efforts,” says Sister Enda.

Sister Letisia Yang who initiated the Assunta Military Band remembers how the girls and their parents helped raise funds to buy band equipment and costumes.

“We used chopsticks to start our band and actually had a chopstick variety show to raise money! Finally in 1964, with the few hundred ringgit we collected, we bought drums, cymbals, flutes and the band uniform.

The girls’ flair for raising funds continues to this day. Charity Month is now called “Ceriathon” and it has contributed greatly to the School Building Fund. The English Literary and Debating Society, Persatuan Bahasa dan Sastera Melayu and the Assunta Military Band stage money-spinning concerts yearly to raise funds.

The school now boasts of three blocks of classrooms, a hall, the Puan Sri Datin Kai Yong Yeoh building which houses the resource centre, computer labs, AV rooms, mathematic room, and a cafeteria equipped with TVs and WiFi.

The Datin Kathleen Yeoh Visual Arts Centre opened this year.

The current headmistress, Puan Hong Yin Wah, continues to uphold the school tradition of ensuring academia goes hand in hand with developing compassionate and well-balanced individuals.

Perhaps it’s high time we honour Sister Enda, teachers and students, past and present, as the school celebrates its golden anniversary this year.

The Assunta Golden Anniversary Dinner will be held on Aug 9 at JW Marriott. Kuala Lumpur. Go to for details.

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