No laws in Malaysia forbids students from initiating legal action against teachers for misconduct

07 Sep 2022 09:30am
There is no discrimination under any laws in Malaysia which forbids students from taking action against their teachers for any misconduct. - Photo: 123RF
There is no discrimination under any laws in Malaysia which forbids students from taking action against their teachers for any misconduct. - Photo: 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Students have the rights to initiate legal actions their teachers and there is no discrimination under any laws in Malaysia which forbids them from taking action against their teachers for any misconduct.

Lawyer Datuk M Reza Hassan said students who were under the age of majority have the rights to file a suit as long as they were represented through a litigation representative.

"Order 76 rule 2(3) (of the Rules of Court) states that for a minor to bring an action against another person, it must be brought by their litigation representative on their behalf and the matter must be represented by a solicitor.

"This representative refers to any adult who is usually the parent or guardian of the minor involved. Therefore individuals in Malaysia have the right to sue in person or by self-representation under Order 5 Rule 6 in all civil matters.

"There is no specific law in Malaysia stating that students cannot take action against their teachers," he told Sinar Daily.

When asked about the consequences on students taking the case to court, Reza said legally there will be no effect on the students as they did not violate any laws by initiating the legal action against their teachers.

He added that before the proceedings begin, a person should be aware that lawsuits are complicated, time consuming, stressful and costly.

The court procedures, he said involved a large amount of documentation which must occasionally be circulated around among the parties concerned.

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"Some papers need a specific mode of distribution, failing which would result in further delays.

“In circumstances involving minors, these documents must be turned over to (or issued by) guardians," he said.

As such, he said students should not be afraid to voice out their rights.

Meanwhile, senior lecturer at the Gender Studies Programme at Universiti Malaya Dr Vilashini Somiah said students nowadays were more vocal in the ways education empowered them compared to students a decade or two ago.

She said now students were even willing to question problematic educational structures.

She said the Covid-19 pandemic had also added to the “take charge" attitude as youths generally felt that education could happen both in and out of traditional institution of education.

As digital natives, she said students were able to utilise the internet and social media to self-educate.

“Students now are more exposed, have more agency in what they learn and how they are informed about the world around them and they are vocal in the ways education empowers them and are willing to question problematic educational structures,” she said when contacted.

Villa said it has become necessary for students in rural areas like in Sabah to emulate this "take charge" attitude or risk being further left behind in a rapidly evolving global economy.

“Current educational structures that we have may not be enough for students who are motivated to learn differently or even more.

“In fact, schools might be seen as following an archaic path that is not engaging with the Gen Z or Post Millennial community students, who are also pulling from different discourses happening online.

“Many youths in villages I work on see this as a far more attainable career path even whilst still in school or university, especially for those who come from less privileged communities,” she said.

Villa also stressed that the rights to quality education should be respected and never be taken for granted just because these students did not represent the status quo.

On Monday, the Kota Kinabalu High Court in Sabah heard two cases involving absenteeism of a secondary school English teacher for skipping class for seven months at a school in Sabah in 2015.

The lawsuits filed in 2018 and 2020 finally went on trial before judge Leonard David Shim.

It was reported that the first suit was initiated by former SMK Taun Gusi Gusi student Siti Nafirah Siman, now 22, on Oct 16, 2018, while the second legal action was initiated by former students from the same school, Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali and Calvina Angayung, who are now 21, in November 2020.

They all named the same teacher Mohd Jainal Jamran as a defendant.

Sabahan advocate for civic empowerment and human rights Fiqah Roslan said no actions were taken by the officials in charge based on the students’ complaints.

She said instead the entire system fought to protect the absentee teacher.

"When these students complained about their teacher failing to enter class and losing precious time to obtain valuable education, the education hierarchy seemed to care more about covering up the wrongdoing of the teacher to “save face”,” she said.

Due to their complaints being ignored, Fiqah said the students also sued the school principal, the education director-general, Education Minister and the State Education Department.

It is also believed the the students were threatened and their families were intimidated follwoing the lawsuit.

"We hope justice will prevail and no students should have to endure what these four students have been through," she said in a post on Twitter.