All the questions from The Students That Sued The Teachers Forum ⤤, answered by MOE whistleblowers & our core team of students, teachers, and parents.
Excellent question. We have a running Case Timeline here on both cases, taken from the Plaintiffs' Press Statements ⤤. You can also read the cryptic, if accurate, notes from the High Court directly here: 2020 High Court Case (BKI-22NCvC-88/11-2020) ⤤ and 2018 High Court Case (BKI-22NCvC-101/10-2018) ⤤.
For the 2020 High Court litigation (recently filed in December 2020 with three Plaintiffs), the case is now in pre-trial case management. Two main events so far: 1) January 4th, 2021 was the first Court mention while 2) February 8th, 2021 is scheduled as the second Court mention. A third mention is scheduled for March 11, 2021. Unfortunately, no other information has been provided except that we can confirm the Plaintiffs are holding strong to demand a complete & thorough High Court trial in the public.
In the 2018 High Court litigation, it has completed pre-trial case management with three stunning victories already notched for Siti Nafirah binti Siman, the 2018 High Court Plaintiff. These occurred between July 2019 to October 2020. She won two of her interlocutory applications (applications to seek reliefs or orders directly from the High Court judge), one for Further & Better Particulars (force the Defendants to clarify their statements, documents, or previous submissions) and one for Discovery—a groundbreaking victory; she forced the Federal Government to turn over evidence in their possession, which is extremely difficult—if not impossible—outside a Court of Law. The MOE is extremely reluctant to proactively offer all evidence to claimed victims. The Defendants opposed both applications! And yet the Federal Government lost and Siti Nafirah binti Siman won!
As you can imagine, beating the Federal Government in High Court is no mean feat.
Siti Nafirah's third victory is perhaps most satisfying; after the Defendants lost to the Plaintiff's Discovery application, within weeks, they applied to Strike Out her case. Whether by coincidence or not, because this Striking Out application would dismiss her case immediately, the Defendants would no longer need to submit any evidence as they had just been ordered to do so in the Discovery application ruling. What happened? Siti Nafirah's legal team won again and dismissed the Federal Government's striking out application, with only one minor victory for the Federal Government: one of the 8 Defendants was allowed to be struck out (the school itself; all other Defendants, including the teacher, principal, district office, state office, Ministry of Education, and Federal Government were all maintained).
This victory was enormous because it finally paved the way to a trial. Unfortunately, the trial has been 3x delayed due to MCOs, EMCOs, MCO 2.0, etc. in Kota Kinabalu; while cases may be lower in Kota Belud, the case is being heard at the Kota Kinabalu High Court. The latest update came January 22, 2021, where the High Court says that after the MCO has been halted, a new trial date will be assigned. However, we caution that this may not mean a quicker trial date, but at least one will be given.
Full Question: I have experienced teacher absenteeism and that was 10 years back. When [we] complained to the authorities, the same old "kami tidak mempunyai tenaga pengajar yang cukup." As a student / guardian / parent, what kind of evidences that [sic] can be collected in order for these people to take action?
We are so sorry that this happened to you, Hajar. It was a blatant, direct violation of your Constitutional Rights, violated by the very public servants who should have been safeguarding them. Their answers were blatantly unacceptable both legally and morally; it is the legal requirement of the Ministry of Education to provide a quality education to all students: no pathetic excuses allowed.
The Ministry has a history of extreme teacher absenteeism and corrupt public servants are a critical shield for the Ministry's legal liabilities. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure the Ministry of Education does not get away with negligence:
For in-person schooling
The primary goals are here 1) prepare yourself & the evidence and 2) examine the power structures. Teachers report to principals who report to the PPD who report to the JPN who report to the KPM who then focus on minimizing reputational damage and reducing legal liability. The more parents you have, the more powerful you literally are. We strongly recommend never going alone: the Ministry has many officers and you will want the backup of trusted parents and friends. With that all said, here is what you can expect:
For online / remote / web-based classes
The SOPs are much less transparent here, however the mindset & procedure are roughly the same. Teachers have assigned times they must teach and teaching must occur to those students in that time (no matter how many students are in the "classroom").
Full Question: In the 1980s, children that are not citizens and/or do not have an IC card can still go to school like IC-holding children without as many fees now. This specifically occurs in Semporna. Can the Tiada.Guru team propose to the Ministry of Education so that children without IC cards are not left behind in education? It would become terribly sad if Malaysia is to become an advanced, high-income nation, but the education system is significantly behind where it was 40 years ago.
We give solidarity to these children and would-be students. Quality education is a human right—hak asasi. It is not dependent on where you were born. Like food, water, and quality shelter, rights are not allowed to be taken away by anyone, including the Government of Malaysia. We fully support that the Sabah State Education Department and the Ministry of Education ensure ALL students, no matter their background nor status, be given their right to a quality education. We cannot ever dare to cut the hands off from these children's futures by denying them their humanity.
Likewise, once students are in schools, they cannot be abused nor taken advantage of because they do not have an IC card. Many forget that this issue affects many Sabahans as well, but it does not matter where they are born. This is a human issue and we always stand by our principle, "What would we expect if we were the students?"
The right to a quality education is non-negotiable.
"The way a government treats refugees is very instructive because it shows you how they would treat the rest of us if they thought they could get away with it."
— English MP, Minister of Technology, and Secretary of State for Energy and Industry Tony Benn
While Tiada.Guru focuses on misconduct in schools, extreme teacher absenteeism, and ending corruption in the MOE, this fight for truly universal education deserves all of us. We are teachers in MOE schools and we want to teach stateless children because our duty that transcends policy: it is humanity. We also support the work of Borneo Komrad's Sekolah Alternatif by our panelist Mukmin Nantang.
Full Question: Were there no other teachers who could volunteer to teach the teacherless students? Or no one took any other intervention?
Excellent. You have unpacked one of the greatest failures throughout the education system: a growing number of corrupt & negligent officers are forcing overtime for the hardest working teachers.
In short, if teachers are required to enter, but do not enter in a particular school, we assure you the same is likely true for the guru ganti as well, who also realizes they can break the law and get away with it.
As teachers, we wish we were superhumans, too. Unfortunately, this solution is unsustainable and an impossible task for so many teachers. Let us explain what teacher life is like inside a toxic, pro-corruption school environment—the only places where extreme teacher absenteeism can thrive.
Honest teachers who do enter their classes are already extremely burdened in these schools. When Siti Nafirah and the 2020 Plaintiffs explain their litigation, note they (smartly) always mention culture. These are not isolated incidents and the facts back them up ⤤. Extreme teacher absenteeism often affects multiple classes in one school. This culture turns a problem into a disaster: honest teachers need to make up for two or even three absent colleagues per subject. The situation becomes toxic once even after multiple teachers stop teaching, they are protected by the school administrators.
Thus, the hardest-working teachers are given 3x to 5x the normal class load as the school administration protects its false public reputation while remaining incredibly corrupt in private. Imagine a restaurant; if three of the four cooks do not show up, it ends up pushing the work onto the waiters and the cleaners, who then get behind on their work. On a micro-scale, yes, teacher volunteering can solve the problem for a few days. But on a macro, school-level, it requires a coordinated system. Either the system can put on a band-aid through a guru ganti system or it can attack the root causes through anti-corruption and disciplinary procedures. Let's first look at what happened to the guru ganti system, which this question seems to allude to.
Teachers being occasionally absent can be worked around, but even that has become far too strenuous in a corruption-first environment. Alone, any teacher can tell you that the guru ganti system used to cover up extreme (read: months-long) teacher absenteeism and stunning corruption in schools reinforces the belief that misconduct is normal, misconduct is better than the truth, and misconduct should continue without any consequences against the perpetrators. It also significantly increases teacher burnout and significantly decreases the quality of education. Guru umpama lilin membakar diri.
So, we already have a guru ganti system and we already have an investigation & disciplinary system. Teachers who do not teach is already a "solved" problem, like any business deals with insubordinate, corrupt, and/or negligent employees. The problem lies with the only people with the power to investigate and they often do absolutely nothing except fabricate lies to hide the problem: corrupt school administrators (who are often teachers as well) and corrupt school principals. When they fail to act, the responsibility falls onto PPDs (district), JPNs (state), and the KPM (Ministry). What if they do no act, as claimed in Siti Nafirah's 2018 litigation? When everyone fails to do their job, cases like Siti Nafirah's and the 2020 Plaintiffs can become extremely common.
There are so many ways it can fail with zero consequences for any corrupt misconduct. Any system requires following SOP; if corrupt individuals do not want to follow SOP, the entire system is dead. Thus, corrupt teachers and corrupt school administrators are often found together. Administrators are the primary legal authority to take action against SOP violations. In schools where administrators don't take actions against absent teachers, they likely also don't take action against any rule-breaking, including guru ganti teachers that do not enter.
Let us be specific and dive into the guru ganti system as an example.
If you look closely, the truth always comes back to the same problem: if there are no independent, fair investigations inside schools by school principals / PPDs / JPNs / KPM officers, the entire education system breaks down. Anything can happen without consequences. Teachers can leave for months, teachers can molest their students, guru ganti can never show up, and it's all accepted as "life" for poor, rural, or otherwise disenfranchised students.
Thank you for this question.
Fikir bah dulu.
Even though the poorest 40% of Malaysians (B40) are the least protected, they clearly are not filing 40% of all litigation. Why the discrepancy? They are at the highest risk of government abuse, corruption, brutality, negligence, and zero oversight. For decades, the rich have toyed with the rich in Court: public interest litigation is the ultimate expression of equality of the all.
Look carefully at anyone who uses this argument—people like to say the conflict is between good and evil; the real conflict is between truth and lies.
While this question is often asked in bad faith (e.g., why do many question child victims instead of perpetrators with decades-long histories ⤤?), we will offer rebuttal points here so everyone can understand the real Kota Belud & Sabah experiences. As eloquently noted by Rusiah binti Sabdarin in her 2020 High Court filing speech,
"In Kota Belud and in many districts in Sabah and Malaysia, many will tell you, “Be reasonable. You can’t get justice! You’re too poor and they are too powerful. Just accept the blame, even if it isn’t your fault; we cannot talk about corruption, as we need to follow powerful people—that’s what ‘orang susah’ must do.” Corrupt people will yell their fears the loudest—they want to make sure the lights don’t turn on.
Siti Nafirah already beat the Defendants three times in High Court: a Kota Belud girl is defeating the Federal Government in High Court."
First, we understand many people are floored to see B40 citizens occasionally use the same powers that T20 and M40 Malaysians wield every single day in the judiciary and Courts, often sight unseen. The right to summon the Federal Government is a right guaranteed by the Federal Constitution: if people do not like that right (!), their complaint is not Siti Nafirah, but with the foundational principle that all are equal before the law. Rarely do these questions get asked if the victims are T20 and we can see through these worried elites' tactics. Poor communities have been shut out of the justice system for so many years. Nobody asks politicians, even young ones, who is belakang their legal cases; politicians are deigned with autonomy and everyday citizens clearly have this autonomy as well. This question often belies the real inequality of access to justice, where most poor people do not have the means, money, nor legal advice to bring to Court serious cases of 1) very real harm, 2) very real corruption, 3) very real injustice, and/or 4) very real crimes of the powerful. Th Courts are to fairly judge whether any claimant's statements are substantiated by the evidence and facts presented to them. Siti Nafirah is breaking that mold, but we should question why that mold even exists. Shouldn't every student who has been denied an education have the desire to fight for their rights? What kind of person would appreciate students giving up if the corrupt are too powerful? When we talk about the access to justice, the time for reckoning has come: even though the Constitution applies to all and protection must be equal, we do not see 40% of Court cases filed by B40 citizens. Why not? In fact, we should expect even more than 40% of Court cases by B40 because they are often the least protected. Genuinely, we ask why not? What's the disconnect? The protection of corrupt civil servants and an elite-first mindset to delegitimize and neuter the poor (as extreme teacher absenteeism does over decades ⤤).
Second, Siti Nafirah's litigation needs to be understood within this decades-long context because it addresses a crisis inside the Ministry of Education and the Sabah State Education department. Her case is not unique; there is evidenced, substantiated, and public history of 20+ years of students, teachers, parents, and even politicians (often opportunistically) ⤤ talking about the severity of this horrible misconduct and negligence. The Ministry of Education itself admits this is a serious problem ⤤ and has previously admitted its own legal liability. You do need any belakang party to understand these cases have been going on for too long and the Executive Branch can no longer investigate itself. It is clear the Ministry of Education's officers are claimed to have crossed the line repeatedly ⤤ during the claimed events, including fabricating evidence at the school and threatening students to lie to the "investigators", who are again Ministry officers.
Third, all of Siti Nafirah's legal actions ⤤ are 1) solidarity and restoration of rights guaranteed to all and 2) against an education & legal system that can protect the corrupt, from a kampung-level to a Ministry-level. Her reliefs focus on declarations, not financial gain. Her litigation focuses on all students as public interest litigation, not only on her class' claimed experiences in 2015. Her speeches focus on the societal impact against all Sabahan students and it is easier to understand once one has read what she has actually written ⤤. These claims remind us of what happened to Veveonah. What is claimed to have happened to Shahidan Kassim's claimed victim. What happened Mohd. Thaqif. What has happened and continues to happen to so many orang asli students. People get shocked when the victims finally fight back, but nobody is shocked when the Ministry's own admissions ⤤ show it keeps creating more victims every year.
These events sound outlandish, but this is what the Government of Malaysia would do if it followed the laws it created. All of our laws demand these actions; there is no "if they want to"—these are required investigations, required prosecutions, required sentencings, and required dismissals + pension disqualifications. Protecting & shielding child abusers should be seen as the sickening, abusive, and psychopathic tactic that is actually is.
Full Question: Throughout the process of summoning the teachers, a number of community groups from either the public or a group of teachers must have been dissatisfied and thought that the Tiada.Guru campaign was tarnishing the reputation of the school and the teachers. Surely these fears will reach the Plaintiffs. The question is, has the behind-the scenes team provided counseling services or guides so that the students involved are not disturbed emotionally and safety?
The Tiada.Guru campaign is not associated with the plaintiffs directly, but we do work with families in Kota Belud and in the nearby villages of students that have been affected by the same or very similar incidents. Likewise, we have been told multiple eyewitness accounts of MOE employees and their associates threatening the students who came forward. It is one reason we started this campaign, to support these students and families and ally with them. They use these resources to fight back against the culture: share the laws, share the latest news articles, share the statistics. On counselling, it is desperately needed for so many families. It is not easy to fight corrupt public servants, but we can do it together. Our contact information is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. For all students, Tiada.Guru wants to be a safe space + we can create share social safety nets to help students.
In today's Malaysia, the support system is nearly non-existent. There is really nothing in many villages. Not from the Federal Government, not from the political parties, not from NGOs, not from the state government, etc. We are improving this work as we speak. At the beginning of the campaign, we only had the Wall of Hope ⤤, which we shared with families & students in the Kota Belud area and around Sabah. However, this is nowhere near enough and still so many students are suffering.
Because we are such a small campaign, we will work to partner with different organizations who can offer a variety of safety nets & social protection for the variety of cases of abuse & negligence inside schools, both in Sabah & Sarawak, alongside the Peninsula. This partnership will result in guides, contact information, and assistance that we will share publicly on our social media & website. So far e have highlighted three major goals:
This is our next major priority after the forum. We are in the organizing stages now; we hope to work with the Sabah Law Society and PS The Children. Please let us know if you have more suggestions; we ourselves live in villages whose schools are deeply affected, so we know that frequent contact is critical. Evil is not brave, but protected.
In cases involving the misconduct of teachers or authorities, the majority of victims were threatened and demanded to not take any further actions. By whom? Corrupt parties and usually high-ranking officials in the Ministry of Education. Even worse, this same pattern of corruption and misconduct cases is that guilty teachers are only assigned elsewhere by corrupt public servants, and they can commit the same offenses at their new location, whether it is a school or education office. This is very problematic because this action does not solve anything. The problem persists and will continue because corrupt teachers are not subjected to firm action. Again, students suffer.
This is not a "rumor" or a "guess"—it has been reported!
“The perpetrator got away with a slap on the wrist because the underage victims were intimidated by the thought of challenging a figure of authority, and didn’t want their schools and communities to view them as homosexual.”
“At 9am on March 29, 2019, the suspect then sent the victim to the Paroi Volley Ball Hall in Seremban, Negri Sembilan, to take part in a competition. “After the conclusion of the volleyball competition, the suspect is believed to have picked-up the teen before returning to the hotel, where he raped the victim again,” he said. Arshad said the suspect then sent the victim back home and threatened her not to reveal the incident, as he was in possession of a pornographic video of her, which he would make public."
“A police report was launched following the incident and eight statements from the relevant parties were recorded including the three teachers. However, there were attempts by the headmaster of the school to withdraw the police report and let the school handle the matter internally. To date, the teachers who were behind the abusive actions were still teaching in the school.”
Why do these cases occur so often, especially in rural areas? Where is the "rule of law"? Where are our Federal Government protections? It boils down to serious corruption inside the education departments.
"Cases of corruption or abuse of power involving the education sector in Sabah are serious, said Sabah Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy commissioner (Prevention), Awang Samsul Baharam Bungso."
"According to Awang Samsul, the problem worsened when support personnel, such as clerks, resorted to bribery and abuse of power."
"I am a retired Education Ministry officer, whereby I started my career as a young teacher with idealistic views... that was before joining the ministry."
"With the amount of corruption, deception, abuse of power, and black magic that I witnessed in the ministry, one would have thought that the principal business there would have probably been drugs or guns, rather than children and teachers. Eventually, the ministry's internal culture and graft tarnished my ideals on education in Malaysia."
"Throughout my time in the ministry, I have witnessed corruption which occurred in the operations that leads all the way to the top. Everyone that works there knew it, but most chose to turn a blind eye to maintain popularity and to not get annihilated by the grafters."
"These divisions are playing out the new minister and it is so obvious. Another one to watch out for, the education technology division is also famous for being a handful."
"Many senior graft-prone officers are still in this division due to its history of awarding big projects. Without overhauling this, the current minister will have little hope of succeeding in anything."
"Until today, the fact that these rogue officers still remain in the division signifies how powerful they are."
"Corruption is not just in the federal office of the ministry, it is also very active in state and district levels, but this story is for another time."
This culture is created by three root causes:
Many miss that Malaysian children already have been screaming their #MeToo movement, into a void: in schools, in universities, in police lockups. This horrific misconduct hurts honest teachers, of which very few are brave enough to be a whistleblower. Then, as the saying goes, "Standing behind predators makes prey of us all."
The Tiada.Guru slogan is, “Malaysia rises for clean education". Thus, any issue involving corruption and abuse of power is something that is Tiada.Guru will strive to bring it to justice. It just so happens that the campaign was inspired by the case of extremely absent teachers. For the future of this campaign, Tiada.Guru will certainly support more issues that lead to the vision for clean education.
"The culture of fear for speaking up must end.”