Female Students Win Nearly $11,000 After Suing Teacher for Not Taking Classes

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In a shocking turn of events, the Malaysian high court ruled in favor of three students who sued their teacher for months of absence. 

It was revealed that a teacher at a secondary school in Malaysia had been absent from class for several months, depriving the students of their right to education. 

Notably, three former students took legal action against not only the teacher but also the school principal, the education minister, the education ministry director general, and the government, claiming a violation of their constitutional right to education.

The judge ruled in favor of the three students, stating that the teacher’s prolonged absence hindered their access to education, which is constitutionally guaranteed to every individual in the country. 

This significant legal victory highlights the importance of upholding students’ rights and ensuring the proper functioning of the education system.

The Case Began in 2020 

Three former students, Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali, and Calvina Angayung, now aged 22, made an extraordinary move by taking their former teacher to court for his extended absence during their tenth-grade year in 2017.

In December 2020, they filed a case against the teacher, alleging that he was absent from his teaching duties for seven months while they were in the fourth form (corresponding to the 10th grade). 

The students claimed that this prolonged absence resulted in their failure in the English exam.

Before taking legal action, the students had raised the issue with the school principal, state administration, and the Ministry of Education in 2017. However, no action was taken to address their concerns.

The student’s lawsuit argued that the teacher and the four other defendants violated their statutory duties under the Education Act 1996 by failing to adequately prepare them for examinations.

On July 18, Justice Leonard David Shim of the Kota Kinabalu High Court ruled in favor of the three former students, acknowledging their success in the legal action. 

The court declared that the principal was also in breach of his duties under the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993. 

This ruling confirmed that the actions of the defendants had indeed infringed upon the students’ constitutionally guaranteed access to education, highlighting the importance of safeguarding educational rights and holding educators and institutions accountable.

The $6,585 Compensation 

High Court Judge Leonard David Shim ruled that the teacher, along with the Malaysian government and three other defendants, must jointly pay damages to the students.

Each student will receive 30,000 ringgit (US$6,585) as nominal damages and an additional 20,000 ringgit (US$4,390) as aggravated damages.

The court found that the defendants had neglected their responsibilities under the Education Act 1996. Among the defendants were the students’ former school principal at S.M.K. Taun Gusi in Kota Belud, the director-general of education, and the federal education minister.

In response to the verdict, Sabah Chief Minister Hajiji Noor expressed his disappointment and emphasized the importance of teachers fulfilling their duty to educate students.

A Reminder for Educators 

After winning the case, the three female students hope for other students to voice their opinions and complaints when such injustice takes place. 

One of the students stated in the court ruling that after the incident, she hopes all students will have the courage to voice their concerns and dissatisfaction when their rights are violated. 

Calvina, another student who sued, said justice had been served and a precedent set for similar cases.

She talked about the time when their teacher kept going absent to the extent that they failed the English subject,” she said.

Giving remarks on the decision, the student said that she felt grateful knowing that their rights are acknowledged and respected by the court. 

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