When pupils fail to attend school, their learning is disrupted, they fall behind in their school work, there are huge gaps in their knowledge and the end result is that basic skills, like reading or writing, are seriously affected.
Frequent absences will make the child lag behind in his studies and he will struggle to catch up. Boredom sets in and the child becomes disillusioned with school.
He may drift into anti-social behavior and be sucked into criminal activities.
One normally reads about children playing truant but in one particular school in Sabah, it is the teacher who is guilty of persistent absenteeism.
More importantly, he is allowed to get away with it when the teacher is supposed to set a good example to his charges.
For seven months from March to October 2017, the English teacher at SMK Taun Gusi in Kota Belud, Sabah, was absent, would arrive late and leave early.
The teacher, Mohd Jainal Jamran, ignored several requests by his Form Four pupils to attend class so that he could deliver his lessons.
Despite lodging numerous complaints to headmaster Suid Hanapi and other teachers, Jainal’s performance and attendance deteriorated.
The failure of the school and its headmaster to punish the teacher prompted three students to file a suit against Jainal.
They also took legal action against the school head, Suid, the education ministry director-general, the education minister and the government of Malaysia.
The students are Rusiah Sabdarin, Nur Natasha Allisya Hamali and Calvina Angayung.
They would like the court to declare that all five defendants are in breach of their statutory duty under the Education Act 1996.
The three plaintiffs should have been taught English during the nine-month period in 2017. They also needed the teacher to help them prepare for their examinations.
One of the witnesses, Mohd Fadzley Isssani Lamsin who was asked to testify said he was a former student at the school and he suffered a similar experience at the hands of this teacher when he was a Form Four student.
He claimed that he wanted to highlight the impact of the absent teacher on the students’ studies and education, and did not want other students to be victimized in a similar fashion. He hoped that Malaysians would be made aware of truancy by teachers.
He also wanted the teacher and four other defendants to be punished.
In most cases when children play truant, the school head will attempt to get in touch with the pupil’s parents and find out why the child is absent. The parents will be persuaded to send their child to school and resume his education.
The department of education will encourage schools to crack down on absenteeism as it is unacceptable.
The teacher playing truant in this Sabah school is a very serious matter. The teacher and head are depriving the children of their right to a decent education.
Despite the failure of both the teacher and head to teach, they are still in their jobs and still drawing a salary.
Why didn’t the school and headmaster crack down on teacher absenteeism?
Why is the teacher allowed to play truant? Despite the children lodging complaints, no action was taken by the head.
In fact, these four students are not the only ones suffering at the hands of this teacher.
In October 2018, another student Nafirah Siman, 19, had also sued Jainal for his alleged failure to turn up for classes for a period of seven months, at the same school in 2015.
Nafirah alleged that during his seven-month absence, Jainal turned up for just one week, and that was when the education ministry and state education department officials paid the school a visit.
Nafirah also alleged that the headmaster Suid threatened the students and forced them to write favorable comments about the teacher. He also told Jainal to “fabricate” his attendance record.
Why is the headmaster condoning the teacher’s bad behavior?
When truancy is not addressed with the urgency it demands, the community and society as a whole will suffer.
Children who receive an adequate education will have better opportunities in life, are able to have higher incomes, and lead healthier lives.
Societies with an educated workforce will have lower crime rates, and citizens are healthier and more civic-conscious.
In other countries, non-performing and incompetent teachers like Jainal and the headmaster Suid would have been sacked.
Why is Suid very lenient with Jainal? Does the teacher have family or friends in high places? Is he “protected” by powerful people?
Why did the education department not act? Was a cover-up involved because it reflects the incompetence of the education department?
Why didn’t the Parents-Teachers Association do more. Moreover, why did the parents of other students just keep quiet?
More importantly, why did the lawyer representing the three students in their suit against Jainal abandon the students halfway through the trial?
There are more questions than there are answers for this “teacher playing truant” case.
- Malaysiakini: Witness: I’m testifying against ‘truant teacher’ so others won’t suffer
- Malaysiakini: Student sues teacher for not coming to class for 7 months
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)