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‘Probe Sabah education officials’
Published on: Friday, July 21, 2023
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‘Probe Sabah education officials’
Our report on July 20.
Kota Kinabalu: Tiada.Guru – the group which encouraged SMK Taun Gusi students to take action over their teacher’s refusal to teach English  – want certain government officials in Sabah investigated for their actions during the lengthy trial.

They include Education Ministry officers, agents and defendants over death threats and fabrication by plaintiffs in their High Court testimony.

It also suggested appropriate disciplinary action against negligent officers responsible for SMK Taun Gusi, the Kota Belud Education District Department, the State Education Department and the Education Ministry until July 2023.

The case’s counsel, Sherzali Herza Asli, said the utmost importance was for the government to recognise and address its shortcomings, while taking decisive actions to formulate effective policies that ensure accountability of errant teachers.

“The well-being and prospects of our future generation hinge on the success of this,” said Sherzali, who is also the co-chair of the Sabah Law Society (SLS) Human Rights sub-committee.

He took over the case pro bono after the three students had to represent themselves during the trial last year.

Three former students won the suit against a teacher who absented himself for seven months rather than teach them English. They sued the teacher, principal, Education Minister and two others.

High Court Judge Leonard David Shim found the plaintiffs had proved their cases on a balance of probabilities and awarded nominal damages in the sum of RM30,000 and aggravated damages in the sum of RM20,000 to be paid to each of the plaintiffs by five defendants jointly and severally.

The suit was filed in Dec 2020 and trial began last September.

Following the court victory of three former students against their English teacher who played truant for seven months before the SPM exam, Tiada.Guru is requesting engagement sessions with federal government ministers.

Tiada.Guru also seeks engagement with federal ministers over the Sabah absent teacher case.

It hopes to meet the Ministers of Law and Institutional Reform, Education and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nation Building, Education, and Human Resource Development.

“The critical reforms to fast-track effective change on the ground, especially in rural communities, include broad and independent whistleblower protection, an independent and impactful Public Ombudsman, and a humanising and critical education curriculum.

“Malaysians are ready to hold apathetic political parties and failed policies accountable, as they cannot deliver tangible, swift, and significant reforms.

“A short-term, government-wide whistleblower protection policy that does not irrationally exclude witnesses from legal and disciplinary cases is needed to address the deficiencies and loopholes in the Education Ministry’s April 2023 policy. 

“Enough is enough,” the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s landmark Kota Kinabalu High Court ruling awarding RM150,000 damages to the three former students should serve as a warning to both teachers and parents, said Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister Datuk Ewon Benedick.

The Kadamaian Assemblyman said everyone who is in the school ecosystem such as teachers, parents and students themselves have their own responsibilities.

“Teachers are responsible to be present and teach their students, but if they were absent, explanation must be given.

“At the same time students must also have the discipline to respect the teacher. If the students’ need the teacher to provide services on a particular day and the teacher cannot be present, then the students can inform their parents.

“The parents can inform the Parents’ Association and Teachers (PIBG) to discuss about teaching services in the school,” he said.

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