Teacher dismissed for being absent for 1,535 days due to water phobia gets back post

31 Jul 2023 11:43pm
Photo for illustrative purpose
Photo for illustrative purpose
KUALA LUMPUR - A primary school teacher who was dismissed in 2019 for being absent for 1,535 days due to water phobia has now been reinstated to the teaching service.

This comes after the Ipoh High Court Judge K. Muniandy allowed a judicial review application filed by Yahaya Wahi, 44, to quash his dismissal and be reinstated as a teacher at any other school which is reachable via a land route.

The science and mathematics teacher named former Education Service Commission chairman Tan Sri Khair Mohamad Yusof, the Hulu Perak District Education Office, Perak Education Department, Education Ministry, and the government as the first to fifth respondents.

Today, Judge Muniandy ruled that the decision made by the respondents to terminate the applicant’s teaching service and dismiss him from employment with the government was procedurally improper, irrational, disproportional and ultimately illegal.

"Thus, the application by the teacher for judicial review via certiorari of the decision made by the respondents to terminate his teaching service and dismiss him from employment with the government of Malaysia is allowed. He is also ordered to be reinstated to the teaching service with the government forthwith,” said the judge.

In his judgment made available on the e-judgment website, Muniandy said in viewing the case objectively, students were deprived of a valuable science and mathematics teacher, simply because the respondents being the related authorities did not act timely and impartially in his case.

"The pivotal issue is if his request to be transferred to teach at a school which is pliable by land route was properly and effectively attended to. If that has taken place, his teaching service would have been placed to beneficial use in the interest of school education for children in the area of science and mathematics.

"It begs the question, what was utmost in the mind of the guardians of education to deprive students of a dedicated mathematics and science teacher by the untimely termination of teacher Yahaya’s career?

"He is not lumbered with disciplinary issues but facing a severe medical condition which has stymied him from teaching at the school in the interior of Gerik, which needed immediate and urgent attention by the respondents,” he said.
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He added, the decision made to dismiss him from teaching service took place haphazardly, unjustly and against natural justice and procedural fairness and it was done in a cavalier fashion.

"In the present age of openness and transparency, the first respondent too had failed to adduce minutes of meeting supporting the disciplinary process and hearing which took place when considering the applicant’s fate to remain in the teaching service with the government, to which he has accorded dedication and his service all the while has been exemplary.

"To crown it up, teacher Yahaya was not informed of his right to appeal to a Disciplinary Appeal Board and no reasons were rendered by the first respondent for his failure to do so,” said the judge.

Yahaya, who graduated with a Bachelor’s in Science and Computer with Education (Physics) from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) started teaching science and mathematics in schools on Jan 15, 2002.

He first taught at SM Sains Hulu Selangor for about six years and later served in Gerik. In total, he has been teaching for close to 18 years with an exemplary track record, evidenced by certificates of excellence.

In 2007, he applied for a transfer to teach in any school in Gerik, so that he could be near to his wife (a teacher too) and children, as well as his aged mother, who lived in neighbouring state Kelantan. His transfer was approved and he taught at two schools in Gerik.

On Dec 16, 2012, he was yet again transferred to SK RPS Kemar, which was located in the interior of Gerik. However, he failed to report for duty and he reported for work only on April 3, 2013. Subsequently, he did not teach at the school until May 16, 2017.

Yahaya’s tribulations began when he found that he had to get to the school by boat across a lake. This mounted pressure on him as he has a phobia of water, thus getting across to the school in a boat induced a paralysing fear in him.

He developed the phobia after a near-drowning incident when he was a child. This was compounded when he witnessed his elder brother drown to death.

He received medical attention in a government hospital in Sungai Petani and was referred to its psychiatric department for further evaluation in 2015. There was also a medical report from KPJ Hospital, Ipoh in 2017 from a consultant psychiatrist about his condition.

Due to his phobia, he absented himself from school for a total of 1,535 days, or about four years from April 3, 2013, to May 16, 2017. He went back to teach after he had discovered a land route to the said school.

The principal of SK RPS Kemar, Gerik initiated disciplinary action against him and on April 10, 2019, Yahaya received a letter from the first respondent informing him that disciplinary action was taken against him.

According to Yahaya, he tried to discuss his case with the authorities and requested another transfer, but to no avail. Yahaya was dismissed from his teaching service and all his emoluments were stopped effective Aug 6, 2019. -Bernama

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