KOTA KINABALU, July 19 ― Three Sabahan students today successfully sued their former secondary school English language teacher for failing to attend classes for almost an entire year.
High Court judge Leonard David Shim today made the judgement in favour of the three students, now 22 years old, awarding them a total RM150,000 in damages to be paid by the five plaintiffs which included the teacher, Mohd Jainal Jamran, the then-principal of SMK Taun Gusi Suid Hanapi, the Education Department director general, education minister and Malaysian government.
In his judgement, Shim said that the plaintiff’s team proved that teacher was frequently or wholly absent in the months leading to the final exam on November 2017 and there is no evidence to show that he was on leave or involved in other school activities during the long period of his absence as claimed.
After observing Jainal’s demeanour when giving evidence during the trial, Shim said he does not find him to be a credible witness.
Shim also said that the principal, Suid, failed to take any reasonable steps to exercise disciplinary control and supervision over Jainal despite knowing about his absenteeism.
He said it was their statutory duty to prepare the students for their English language examination and that the principal, the education department and ministry must see that the English teacher that they provide is reasonably competent and is present in class to teach English classes and have statutory duty to take appropriate disciplinary action against the absent teacher
“There is evidence of negligence and breach of statutory duty by the defendants,” he said.
Shim also chided the teacher for leaking the exam questions to the students in order to boost the passing rate of his students to make up for his absenteeism and /or breach of statutory duty.
"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 said.
Shim also said that the students had a constitutional right to education and that the defendants were in a breach of their duties.
He 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 the five defendants jointly and severally. The interest on at the rate of 5 per cent per annum from the date of judgment until the date of full and final settlement.
The suit was filed in December 2020 and trial began last September. The plaintiffs called 10 witnesses to the stand, while the defence had three.
Counsels were Sherzali Asli of Messrs. Asli and Cham Chambers for the plaintiffs while Mohd Hafizi Abdul Halim and Fazriel Fardiansyah Abdul Kadir appeared for the defendants.
The three students, Rusiah Sabdarin, Calvina Angayung and Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali said that they were grateful for the results of the case and hoped that in the future, all parties will take teaching more seriously.
“I hope that more students will be courageous to voice out in the future and be aware of their rights as students,” said Rusiah.
Calvina said she was also relieved at the results after going through the ordeal for the last six years having faced a lot of stress since the incident began which caused them to fail their English exam.