KOTA KINABALU: The issue of absent teachers, particularly in rural Sabah, has gone to court with a former secondary school student suing a teacher for not teaching English in her Form Four class back in 2015.
Siti Nafirah Siman, now 19, said in court papers filed at the Kota Kinabalu High Court on Oct 16 that the absence of the teacher to teach the subject under the government’s Dual Language Policy to learn Maths and Science in English was a denial of rights to her and her classmates.
Nafirah said she subsequently failed the English subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations, thus dampening her hopes for a brighter future.
Nafirah believed that it was a violation of her rights as a student as it was a teacher’s duty to teach but he was absent for most of the year when she and her classmates were in Form 4 in 2015.
In court papers, she named the teacher, the principal, and the secondary school management as first, second and third defendants respectively.
She also named the Kota Belud District Education officer, Sabah Education Department director, Education director-general, Education Minister and Malaysian government as the fourth to eight defendants respectively.
In her statement of claim, she said that the teacher stopped entering her class from February 2015 for his assigned task to teach English and that he remained absent till November of that year except for about a week in October 2015.
The court papers detailed out dates and times of communication with senior state officials about the absence of the teacher.
Among others, the court documents also disclosed that the problem of absent English teachers was highlighted by US State Depart-ment Fullbright Senior English Teaching Assistant Grantee to Malaysia Ibrahim Jadoon.
Ibrahim had raised the problem to senior education officials in March 2015.
The statement of claim also highlighted alleged inaction and even intimidation by certain senior education officials who allegedly tried to protect the teacher.
The writ of summons is expected to be heard by the court on Nov 19.
Teaching absenteeism, particularly in rural schools, has surfaced now and then but this the first time a student is taking legal action on the educator.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Narifah said that she had taken up the public interest case to stand up for children who could not do so out of fear.
“Teachers lose nothing if they don’t teach, students lose everything if they are not taught,” said Narifah, who was accompanied by her lawyer Roxana Jamaludin.
She also expressed her hope that failure in accountability in the education system could be remedied and that those involved were held accountable.
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