Absent teacher to pay RM150,000

KOTA KINABALU: Three former SPM students taught their school and teacher a great lesson this week after winning a lawsuit over the teacher’s chronic absenteeism.

In what was a landmark judgment on Tuesday, the High Court here ruled in favour of Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali and Calvina Angayung in their suit against their former English subject teacher Mohd Jainal Jamran and four others, including the government.

The former secondary school students from Kota Belud also named SMK Taun Gusi’s principal Suid Hanapi, the director-general of Education and the Education Minister in the suit filed in December 2020.

The trio had sued their teacher at the school in the northern Kota Belud district, about 100km from the state capital, for failing to turn up and teach them for seven months in 2017.

The court held that the defendants breached their statutory duties and violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional guarantee to education.

The judgment posted via e-review on Tuesday was made available by the trio’s counsel Sherzali Herza Asli yesterday.

“From the totality of the evidence before the court and after considering the submissions by both parties, the court finds that the plaintiffs have proven their case on a balance of probabilities,” said High Court judge Justice Leonard David Shim in his judgment.

Justice Shim ruled that the five defendants were in breach of their statutory duty under the Education Act 1996 by failing to prepare the three plaintiffs for examinations as prescribed under the Education Act.

The court also held that the principal had breached his duties under the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993.

The court declared that all five defendants had violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to access to education guaranteed under Article 5, read together with Article 12, of the Federal Constitution.

The court also awarded RM150,000 in total damages to the plaintiffs.

Nominal damages in the sum of RM30,000, Shim said, are to be paid jointly by the defendants to each plaintiff.

He said aggravated damages of RM20,000 are also to be paid to each of the plaintiffs by the first to fifth defendants jointly and severally.

Justice Shim also allowed for 5% per annum interest on nominal and aggravated damages from the date of judgment until the date of full and final payment.

However, he said that as this case involved the question of the fundamental constitutional right to education and matters of public interest, the court had not issued an order as to costs.

The suit by the students, who are now 22 years old, is one of two lawsuits launched by former SMK Taun Gusi students against the same teacher.

There was an earlier lawsuit filed by former SMK Taun Gusi student Siti Nafirah Siman in October 2018.

The trial before Justice Ismail Brahim at the High Court here is scheduled to resume on Aug 16.

The suits came about with a campaign started by Sabah-based NGO Tiada.Guru which has been pushing for students’ right to quality education and awareness on teacher absenteeism, especially in rural Sabah.

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