SABAH, MALAYSIA — Siti Nafirah binti Siman, a former student of SMK Taun Gusi in Kota Belud, Sabah, has taken legal action against the Malaysian Federal Government regarding her English teacher’s alleged absence from classes for seven months.
Ms Siti, now 23 and a housewife, filed a lawsuit on Oct 30, 2018, naming eight defendants including the teacher, principal, district education officer, state education department, and Malaysia’s Federal Government.
The case revolves around Siti Nafirah’s right to a quality education and highlights the issue of alleged misconduct within the education system.
The plaintiff alleged that her English teacher, Mohd Jainal bin Jamran, did not show up to teach for seven months in 2015.
However, since 2020, due to the pandemic’s impact, the case involving Siti Nafirah has been in a state of uncertainty, with several trial dates set and subsequently canceled.
The most recent hearing took place in September 2022, but it was postponed after Siti Nafirah decided to change solicitors and sought new representation for the case.
Siti Nafirah is now represented by lawyer Shireen Sikayun. In a significant development, the long-pending legal case has finally resumed trial this week at Kota Kinabalu High Court, from 15 to 19 May.
The court decision is expected to be delivered on 18 July.
In December 2020, three more SMK Taun Gusi students—Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali and Calvina Angayung —joined Siti Nafirah and filed similar High Court summons.
These four victims became key figures in the grassroots campaign called Tiada.Guru, which aims to address the issue of extreme teacher absenteeism and promote clean education in Malaysia.
The teacher and the principal allegedly pressured the students to drop the case
Calvina, the daughter of a fisherman who experienced years without electricity in her family, and Rusiah, the daughter of a chicken farmer, faced the threat of physical violence from their families when they refused to withdraw their litigation.
Nur Natasha, the daughter of an ex-police officer, was also pressured by her family to abandon her studies for the future after she refused to withdraw her litigation.
They also claimed that Mohd Jainal, then-English teacher had refused to enter their class from March to July in 2017 when they were 16 years old.
Rusiah, one of the plaintiffs, gathered evidence of the defendants’ actions, including audio recordings and screenshots, which revealed alleged pressure from the ex-principal to withdraw the case, threats of juvenile detention, and a request not to record their conversation.
In 2021, the High Court granted the plaintiffs an injunction, providing a restraining order against Mohd Jainal, the ex-principal, and officers from the education ministry who were pressuring them to drop the case.
In December 2022, Tiada.Guru called upon Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek to issue a formal apology to the young plaintiffs and investigate disciplinary actions against the Ministry of Education (MOE) officers involved in misconduct.