By: Zaki Salleh
Ipoh – Tucked away behind a row of shops, the location of Kampung Kuchai on Dato Onn Jaafar Street in Ipoh remains unknown to many, including the city’s residents.
However, if you mention the Panglima Kinta Mosque, some may nod in recognition, finally grasping the whereabouts of this obscure corner.
Once the early Malay settlement in Ipoh, today, Kampung Kuchai is a mere remnant of its former self. Only a few ageing houses remain, with some nearly bowing down to the earth in disrepair.
Yet, within Kampung Kuchai, there is one heritage that stands the test of time – the former Kampung Kuchai Malay School building, now over 120 years old.
This old school building is situated on government-owned land, representing a lasting testament to the progress of this area in days gone by.
The wooden building with walls made of ‘bertam’ (bertam is a type of leaf used as a roof for houses in ancient times) should ideally be preserved, either transformed into a historical gallery that can benefit the younger generation.
Regrettably, this ageing building has also become a hub for immoral activities, including drug-related activities.
The Secretary of the Perak Heritage Association, Nor Hisham Zulkiflee, has raised the importance of safeguarding this building from further neglect.
“This school’s location was also an academic excellence hub for the Malays, built by the Malay aristocracy and elite.
“The fire incident here two years ago should serve as a wake-up call for everyone, as the heritage of this school building is irreplaceable if lost,” he stated when contacted.
Although it survived two previous fires, the old school building is now in a dire state of neglect.
The fires also destroyed two adjacent former teacher’s houses, which were over 60 years old.
So far, there seems to be no visible effort by the authorities to rescue this historical building.
Without preservation efforts, Ipoh stands to lose yet another valuable heritage.