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In Malaysia’s Sabah state, former students win suit against teacher who was absent for 7 months

Sabah-based non-governmental organisation Tiada.Guru is calling on the Malaysian government to protect whistleblower and teacher Nurhaizah Ejab who has allegedly received death threats. She is a witness in the teacher absenteeism case.

In Malaysia’s Sabah state, former students win suit against teacher who was absent for 7 months

File photo of a gavel. (Photo: CNA/Jeremy Long)

KOTA KINABALU, Sabah: Three students in Malaysia’s Sabah state on Tuesday (Jul 18) won a suit against their former English teacher who was absent from teaching their class for seven months in 2017. 

According to The Star, the students were each awarded RM50,000 (US$11,000) to be paid by the five defendants. 

The defendants are English teacher Mohd Jainal Jamran, Taun Gusi Secondary School then-principal Suid Hanapi, the education director-general, the education minister and the Malaysian government.

The High Court ruled that the defendants breached their statutory duties and violated the former students’ constitutional guarantee to education.

According to the Malay Mail, High Court judge Leonard David Shim said that it was the defendants’ statutory duty to prepare the students for their English language examination. 

He said that the principal failed to take any reasonable steps to exercise disciplinary control and supervision over the teacher despite knowing about the latter’s absenteeism.

It is the duty of the principal, the education department and the ministry to see that the English teacher they provide is reasonably competent and is present in class to teach English classes, said Justice Shim. 

“There is evidence of negligence and breach of statutory duty by the defendants,” he said.

He also reportedly chided the teacher for leaking the exam questions to the students in order to boost the passing rate of his students and to make up for his absenteeism. 

"It amounts to an unprofessional conduct and breach of confidential information which renders the sanctity of the examination meaningless and gives an unfair advantage to some students over others who were not given the leaked examination questions,” he was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail. 

According to The Star, the suit was filed in December 2020 by three students - Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali and Calvina Angayung - who were aged 16 when the teacher failed to turn up for classes. 

The suit by the trio, now 22, is among two lawsuits against the same teacher brought by former students of the school.

The first was reportedly filed by former student Siti Nafirah Siman in October 2018. The trial is scheduled to resume on Aug 16.

The suits came about with a campaign started by Sabah-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Tiada.Guru which has been pushing for students’ right to quality education and awareness of teacher absenteeism, especially in rural Sabah, according to The Star. 

Meanwhile, the NGO is calling on the Malaysian government to protect whistleblower Nurhaizah Ejab who has allegedly received death threats, had her car tyres slashed and lost her school's support. 

Ms Nurhaizah, who is also a teacher, had testified against the absentee teacher. According to the New Straits Times (NST), Tiada.Guru revealed several disturbing incidents on Twitter involving teachers and administrators against Ms Nurhaizah. 

The NGO is also reportedly calling on politicians, police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the education ministry to investigate any criminal actions shared by Ms Nurhaizah through her testimony, documents and audio-video recordings that were revealed in court.

The group alleged that Ms Nurhaizah had sent a report on the teacher’s absenteeism in 2015 but was dismissed by the then-principal.

According to NST, Ms Nurhaizah then chose to record the absentee teacher’s classes by discreetly placing a GoPro camera in his classroom to gather "more believable evidence" in 2017. This was revealed in court.

Through 80 time-stamped recordings, she reportedly revealed that the teacher consistently failed to attend class, leaving the students without proper instruction.

Source: Agencies/ya(nm)


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