Culture of fear in discussing ‘guru ponteng’ – witness

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Siti Nafirah and Ibrahim after the proceedings at the High Court on Thursday.

KOTA KINABALU (Nov 30): The High Court here on Thursday heard in the trial of a civil suit filed by a former student of a secondary school against her teacher that there was a culture of fear in discussing ‘guru ponteng’ (teacher absenteeism) issue even though it was an open secret at the secondary school in Kota Belud.

Ibrahim Khan Jadoon, who was testifying before Justice Datuk Ismail Brahim, said that a teacher claimed that the culture of fear in discussing sensitive topic which was guru ponteng was due to the first defendant Mohd Jainal Jamran’s alleged temper.

Ibrahim, who was a subpoenaed witness, testified that he was also told that the guru ponteng issue was an open secret at the said school for a long time already.

To a question under examination-in-chief by counsel Shireen Sikayun, Ibrahim claimed that he also saw the second defendant Hj Suid Hj Hanapi, who is the school’s principal did not take any action regarding the issue.

“Principal Suid not taking any action thus de facto protecting the scandal and these guru ponteng including the first defendant,” claimed Ibrahim, who also sometimes called the first defendant as JJ.

To another question, the witness testified that he reported to the teacher as the teacher was his English Teaching Assistant (ETA) mentor as such the teacher was his first point of contact on all school issues.
Ibrahim told the court that his Fullbright ETA grant was at the said school in 2014.

“I met Siti Nafirah (the sole plaintiff) as a form three Kemboja student, she had asked me to tutor her and her friends for the new upcoming PT3 exam at that time,” said the witness.

Counsel: Did you receive any complaint from the plaintiff in 2015?
Witness: Yes, I had wanted to learn more about JJ’s alleged absenteeism in the school because I had known Siti Nafirah in 2014 and knew she would be forthright (honest) about the school’s problems.

“I met her in the hallway in April 2015 and asked her did she know about guru ponteng such as the case of JJ’s alleged absenteeism for two years in another class.

“She said yes it is a big problem at the school, I asked her if she had any guru ponteng, she said yes, her English teacher.

“Siti Nafirah then asked me for a new English teacher, whether me or replaced by someone else,” explained the witness.

To another question, Ibrahim testified that in a meeting on April 28, 2015 for briefing for a novice English teacher’s camp by the State Education Department (JPN), he reported to an officer regarding guru ponteng because he took it as his moral responsibility when his children (students) were crying and pleading for an English teacher.

He further testified that as educators, they have a duty to report such abuse or neglect and the school’s principal was already informed but still no action was taken up until the meeting to his knowledge.

“Next, the culture of fear at the school regarding guru ponteng against both students and teachers was preventing reports of the scandal to higher officers. As an ETA, I uniquely had a direct channel to the JPN.

Second, why did I report to the officer, I had known the officer well since 2014 and we had a good rapport, the officer was the most senior JPN officer I knew and as the senior JPN officer, the officer would know the next step.

“Finally, guru ponteng caused three effects to my work directly, first it caused a moral dilemma when students pleaded for teachers but as an ETA, I was under contract not to teach alone. Second, guru ponteng negated the purpose of the ETA contract whereby two governments had spent large sums to send ETAs to improve English language but the cause of poor English at my school was due to the alleged absence of Malaysia Education Ministry’s English teachers,” said the witness.

Ibrahim added that finally, guru ponteng had caused murid ponteng (student absenteeism).

Siti Nafirah Siman, 23, had named Mohd Jainal, Suid (sued in his capacity as school’s principal), Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Taun Gusi, District Education Officer of Kota Belud, Director of Education Sabah, Director General of Education Malaysia, Minister of Education Malaysia and Government of Malaysia as first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth defendants respectively.

Siti Nafirah had filed the suit against the first defendant for his alleged failure to teach the English Language subject to her and her classmates during his assigned periods or timetable for the academic year of 2015.

Siti Nafirah, who was represented by Shireen, also sued the other defendants for their alleged failure to take action against the first defendant for allegedly failing to teach her and her classmates.

The trial will resume on December 1.