A manifestation of the failure on the part of the ministry to handle a situation of conflict between a teacher and a student with maturity and wisdom.
Former deputy education minister Teo Nie Ching has blamed the education ministry for the defamation suit filed by a teacher against his former student, Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam.
The Kulai MP said this was a manifestation of the failure on the part of the ministry to handle a situation of conflict between a teacher and a student with maturity and wisdom.
She said if the education minister had created a proper window for a frank discussion and mediation, the situation where a teacher and a student suing each other could have been avoided.
“But this was not done. From the beginning, the ministry did not take ownership of the problem, leaving it to the police while taking a lackadaisical attitude,” she said in a statement today.
“The minister and his team failed to resolve this before it turned into a legal dispute.”
Secondary school teacher Khairul Nizam Sanuddin has filed a suit against Ain and her father, Saiful Nizam Abdul Wahab, for defamation over claims that he made “rape jokes” during a physical education class.
Teo said the whole episode showed that the education minister had failed to make schools safe, not only for Ain, but all students alike.
She said Ain also had to leave public school and transfer to a private school to pursue her education.
“This only indicates that the system has failed and we as adults have failed children like her.
“The minister should seek expert advice and seriously review all standard operating procedures and existing policies on investigating, and handling cases of sexual harassment in schools and educational institutions.”
Teo said victims who spoke up must be protected and the system must not be designed to punish people who had the courage to come forward.
She said Ain’s right to expression and opinion must also be respected, adding with the recent development, victims of sexual harassment in schools or educational institutions might not be willing to speak up.
“I would also like to stress that the education ministry is also not addressing the elephant in the room, that is, teachers need holistic training and capacity building to enhance their understanding of the safe school concept.
“The concept of safe school is not one that only focuses on physical safety but one that also encompasses the mental and emotional safety of students,” she said.
Seputeh MP Teresa Kok is pushing the education minister to take an official stand on the case.
“I think this is the first case in Malaysia where a male teacher has actually sued his student.
“The legal action by Khairul Nizam indicates that despite the media onslaught on his action, he is nonchalant and still feels what he did is proper. His legal action has made a mockery of the teaching profession in Malaysia,” Kok said in a statement last night.
She said the teacher should be aware that his” joke” and his subsequent lawsuit has tarnished Malaysia’s name as the case has been widely reportedly by the international media.
“I ask the education minister, who is duty-bound to guarantee students a safe environment to study, to take an official stand on the legal action taken by this teacher.
“The timing of this suit could not have been worse, especially when the government is on the verge of presenting the anti-sexual harassment Bill in Parliament. The student has suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the teacher’s behaviour. This cannot be ignored,” she added.
In May, it was reported that the teacher was transferred to the Selangor Education Department pending a police investigation.
The deputy public prosecutor later decided that no further action will be taken against the man.
Meanwhile, Ain and her father will file a counterclaim against the teacher suing them.
The duo is also set to haul to court the education minister, the Selangor state education director, and the school principal over alleged failure to protect her from the incident.
The father-daughter’s counsel SN Nair today confirmed that they are set to file the legal action against the teacher and the other proposed defendants.
“The teacher is still employed by the government, so naturally whatever (alleged) wrong he did, the government is liable on the basis of vicarious liability.
“The incident (allegedly) happened when the principal was there. The principal should have investigated and attended to the issue, that was his duty.
“When one does not do one’s duty, there will be liability,” Nair said when contacted.
The lawyer explained that the father-daughter seek to sue the teacher and the other proposed defendants for the tort of intentionally inflicting emotional distress (IIED).
Nair said IIED is basically a form of tort of negligence whereby the defendants’ actions caused a person to suffer from emotional distress, hence the plan to countersue for damages.
In relation to the teacher’s current defamation suit, Nair said that Ain and her father will first enter appearance in the Shah Alam Sessions Court via the lawyer, then later they will file their statement of defence.
The teacher’s legal action is fixed for case management before the lower court tomorrow.