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Thursday, July 20, 2023

Petition for whistleblower protection in absent teacher case

A former student of SMK Taun Gusi, Sabah has created an online petition to demand “whistleblower protection” for a teacher who raised the issue of a colleague’s repeated truancy.

The teacher in question is Nurhaiza Ejab, 37, who filed a complaint against English teacher Mohd Jainal Jamran for his absenteeism to the Kota Belud district education officer.

The petition, prepared by former student Safiah Omar and advocacy group Tiada Guru, stated that despite Nurhaiza’s efforts to protect the students and the threats she received, she was not provided protection by the government.

“Cikgu Nurhaizah knew this horrible reality for years… Still, she never burdened her students.

“She kept teaching, struggling, and sacrificing everything for us and yet she was the only whistleblower in the entire trial,” Safiah said in the petition.

The petition has garnered over 700 signatures out of a 1,000-signature goal and is aimed at getting the attention of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki, and former inspector-general of police (IGP) Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani.

Former inspector-general of police (IGP) Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani

The petition was created in May, prior to Acryl’s announcement of his early retirement.

Also listed in the petition were the demands for the police and the MACC to investigate all of the evidence provided by Nurhaiza as well as the three plaintiffs.

Additionally, it called for lawmakers to support whistleblower protection laws and urged them to appoint an independent ombudsman to investigate complaints against any institutions.

Safiah said it was concerning that institutions like the Education Ministry did not sufficiently protect teachers, highlighting the need for an external and independent body to hold administration members accountable.

Ministry shouldn’t police itself

“Why are senior public servants still able to threaten teachers? Teachers are ready to speak up.

Sudah-sudahlah (Enough) with the Education Ministry’s internal investigations and weak disciplinary enforcement.

“Teachers and students need external and independent investigations as well as enforcement. No more Education Ministry and the Education Service Commission policing themselves,” Safiah said.

Nurhaiza was the 10th witness in a civil suit against Jainal by three former SMK Taun Gusi students - Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali, and Calvina Angayung.

The trio alleged that Jainal did not turn up to teach for several months in 2017 and to support this, Nurhaiza provided the Kota Kinabalu High Court with 80 time-stamped video recordings of the class, at times when Jainal was allegedly absent.

Last November, Nurhaiza testified that she was “intimidated” for speaking up by the Language Department head Norhana Idek, and another teacher, Awang Erawan from the school.

She also alleged that her tyres were slashed in 2015 and she lodged a police report over the matter.

Aside from Jainal, the school principal Suid Hanapi, the Education Ministry director-general, the education minister, and the government were also named as defendants for not taking reasonable action despite being notified of the teacher’s absence.

The students filed the suit in December 2020 while a similar suit against Jainal, which was filed by another former student Siti Nafirah Siman in 2018, is still being heard.

Yesterday, the Kota Kinabalu High Court ruled in favour of the three plaintiffs, stating that the five defendants in the case had violated the students’ constitutional rights to access education.

Judge Leonard David Shim also ruled that the five defendants breached their statutory duty under the Education Act 1966 by failing to prepare the three students for examinations.

The judge declared that the second defendant - Suid - had breached his duties under Regulations 3C, 25, and 26 of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) Regulations 1993. - Mkini

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