Former students of Kota Belud school win historic suit against teacher, four others

0

(From left) Calvina, Nur Natasha Allisya, Rusiah and their counsel Sherzali.

KOTA KINABALU (July 19): Three former students of a secondary school in Kota Belud made history after being the first individuals to file and win a suit against their ex-English language teacher and four others for violating their constitutional rights to access education six years ago.

Plaintiffs Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali, and Calvina Angayung, all aged 22, took the unprecedented move by filing the suit to bring their former teacher to court for not attending classes to teach them while they were in Form 4 Sports Science (4SS) at the school.

In a 74-page judgement delivered via e-review today, High Court Justice Leonard David Shim ruled among others that from the totality of the evidence before the court and after considering the submissions by both parties, the court found that the plaintiffs had proven their case on a balance of probabilities.

“Based the principles enunciated by the Federal Court in the aforesaid authorities and construing Article 5(1) read together with Article 12, both articles of the Federal Constitution as broadly as possible, the court finds that the right to be provided with a teacher who attends classes to teach and to prepare the plaintiffs for the English language examination is an integral part of the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to education and the said constitutional rights has been breached by the defendants,” the judge ruled.

Shim also ruled that the plaintiffs’ claim was allowed and there shall be judgment for the plaintiffs against the defendants as follows:

  • (i) A declaration that the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth 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 1996;
  • (ii) A declaration that the second defendant was in breach of his duties under Regulation 3C, 25, 26 Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993;
  • (iii) A declaration the five defendants had violated the three plaintiffs’ constitutional right to access to education guaranteed to the plaintiffs under Article 5 read together with Article 12 of the Federal Constitution;
  • (iv) Nominal damages in the sum of RM30,000 to be paid to each of the plaintiffs by the first to fifth defendants jointly and severally.
  • (v) Aggravated damages in the sum of RM20,000 to be paid to each of the plaintiffs by the first to fifth defendants jointly and severally.
  • (vi) Interest on (iv) and (v) at the rate of 5 per cent per annum from the date of judgment until the date of full and final settlement and as this case involved the question of the fundamental constitutional right to education and matters of public interest, the court makes no order as to costs.

The three plaintiffs had named Mohd Jainal Jamran, Suid Hanapi (sued in his capacity as the principal of the school), director-general of Education Malaysia, Minister of Education Malaysia, and Government of Malaysia as second, third, fourth, and fifth defendants respectively.

The trio sought reliefs against the defendants namely a declaration that the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth defendants are allegedly in breach of their statutory duty under the Education Act 1996 by allegedly failing to ensure that the three plaintiffs were taught the English language during the period of March 2017 to November 2017.

They also sought a declaration that the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth defendants are allegedly in breach of their statutory duty under the Education Act 1996 by allegedly failing to prepare the three plaintiffs for examinations as prescribed under the Education Act.

Apart from that, the plaintiffs also wanted declarations that the second defendant is allegedly in breach of his duties under Regulation 3C, 25, 26 Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993 and the alleged acts of the first and second defendants amounted to misfeasance in public office.

Lastly, they sought a declaration that the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth defendants had allegedly violated the three plaintiffs’ constitutional right to access to education guaranteed to the plaintiffs under Article 5 read together with Article 12 of the Federal Constitution.

The plaintiffs, who was represented by counsel Sherzal Herza Asli, had called 10 witnesses to give their evidence in court while the defendants produced three witnesses.

The defendants were represented by senior federal counsel Mohd Hafizi Abd Halim and federal counsel Mohd Fazriel Fardiansyah Abdul Kadir.

The trial of the suit began on Sept 5, 2022.