SOCIAL AND CULTURAL
Sitiawan’s population in 2000 was estimated at 96,000. Since then it’s population has grown rapidly. In 2015, Sitiawan’s population was estimated to be 156,234 comprising 45.6% Chinese, 37.3% Malay and 16.9% Indian and 0.2% others. The district of Manjung had a population of 240,000 in 2010 and a young population with a median age of 26.4.
The Chinese in Sitiawan are mainly descended from Foochow settlers and are also referred to as Hockchiu in other parts of the country. The town community not only represents the largest Foochow settlement in the Peninsular but also has the highest proportion of Christians among the country’s urban centers.
Especially prominent in the town’s social and cultural development is its strong educational heritage. SMK Methodist ACS Sitiawan, formerly an English school, was founded by Christian missionaries back in 1903. SMJK Nan Hwa, previously a private Chinese school but now a partially subsidised government school which uses the Chinese medium was was founded in 1935.
Among prominent leaders in the field of education in Perak and the country, the name of Ong Seok KIm (1884-1964) stands out. Besides doing business in Perak, he was a trader based in Sitiawan. Drawing on wealth built from diverse sources, he became an educationist, social worker and philanthropist, generously funding charity and education projects in Manjung district and especially Sitiawan.
Of the 24 Chinese primary schools and 5 Chinese secondary schools in the district, 5 schools alone were founded by Ong Seok Kim.They are SJK (C) Chung Cheng, Sitiawan in 1920, SMJK Nan Hwa (which split into Sekolah Tinggi Nan Hwa, Ayer Tawar Road in 1984) in 1935, SJK (C) Ping Min, Lumut in 1951 and SMJK Dindings, Lumut in 1953.
After his death in 1964, the Manjung community established the Ong Seok Kim Memorial Education Fund in his honour. The Fund offers scholarships and loans to students in the Manjung District, irrespective of ethnicity.
Other prominent schools include Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Ahmad Boestamam, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Convent and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tok Perdana. The first mentioned school is named after Ahmad Boestamam, a pioneering political figure who helped the country to gain independence from the British and was the first president of Parti Rakyat Malaysia.