Prosecute teachers who commit criminal acts against children

Abolish torture and 'corporal punishment' in Malaysian schools

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Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) demands an independent investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators in the case where a 11-year-old student who, after being punished by having to stand under the hot sun, suffered heat exhaustion or heatstroke that also caused nerve damage and has now turned a previously healthy child into a person with disabilities.

The teacher who committed the crime and all others who failed to stop this action – and possibly similar crimes in the past – despite knowing, including the school head, must be investigated and prosecuted. Disciplinary measures alone are simply not acceptable when such crimes against children are committed.

During the current heat spell this year, Malaysia has had about 45 cases of heat stroke, including two deaths, reported so far this year, says health director general Dr Radzi Abu Hassan. He said most of the cases involved those who suffered from heat exhaustion. The last death was on 1 April.

It makes it even more shocking that a child was punished by standing under the sun for several hours at this time.

On 30 April, an 11-year-old student and three others were punished by their teacher, who made them stand under the blazing sun. Whilst three others were let off earlier, this particular child was made to stand under the sun from 10:00 to 12:50, about three hours, according to the boy’s parent.

He was later rushed to the hospital, and the doctors ascertained he had suffered from heat exhaustion, and he was also diagnosed with a nerve condition because of the heatstroke.

After that, the child’s condition deteriorated.

She [the mother] explained that her son used to often play with his siblings but now, he hides a lot and talks to himself.

“The hospital informed me that I can’t send my son to a regular school anymore because of his health issues.

“They say I have to send him to a school for special needs children now….”

On 7 June, the hospital classified the child as a person with disabilities.

The ‘thin skull’ rule (or eggshell skull rule) legal rule states that, even if injury or death is not reasonably foreseeable, the law still considers the defendant liable if the victim suffered from some physical or mental condition.

Thus, it matters not if other 11-year-old children subjected to the same kind of torture would not have suffered the same consequence as our victim here.

Hence, the teacher and all others who were accomplices will be criminally liable for what happened to this child. What was done to the other three children was also criminal, even if they did not suffer from heatstroke.

It is sad to note that the police and the state may be acting to protect the perpetrators – who are a government teacher and a government school.

On 25 March, it was reported that Ampang Jaya District Police chief, assistant commissioner Mohd Azam Ismail said that “investigations revealed the suspect, a local male teacher, 37, had punished the victim along with three other friends to 10 minutes of the punishment”.

READ MORE:  Abuse of student made to stand in the sun: Unanswered questions

This is contrary to what was earlier reports that said that the child was made to stand under the sun for two to three hours.

Would the child have suffered from heat exhaustion? The time under the sun may be irrelevant as the fact was, the boy suffered from heatstroke, nerve damage and now has been classified as a person with disabilities.

Now, the family of the victim said the police were trying to establish if the boy was disabled before the incident. 

If true, why are the police doing this? They must focus on the crime and investigation of the suspect.

In any event, even if the child was a person with disabilities before the incident, it can be said to be a failure of the government to identify this earlier with regard students under its care, and it certainly does not absolve the teacher of the crime.

Madpet hopes that the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime is carried out justly, and is not affected by external factors (like any prejudices like poverty, political connection, protection of the state and/or its employees, ethnicity, religion, etc).

It must be noted that in the past when it comes to public officers, Malaysia has been slow to charge government employees in court for a criminal offence –  even after recommendations that this be done with regard to certain officers, after the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) or the national human rights commission Suhakam so recommends after a full inquiry. This has happened before in several cases of deaths in custody and enforced disappearance.

Transparency – No more keeping secret rules or circulars concerning schools or students

Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said that appropriate action will be taken based on the investigation report from the authorities. She added that schools are advised to always adhere to the current student management guidelines in force.

The one fundamental problem that exists is that these guidelines and professional circulars are not publicly available or easily assessed. Parents and students certainly have a right to know what teachers or schools can or cannot do with regard to students including permissible punishments.

This is important so that parents and students will be able to highlight when these rules are broken – something they cannot do if they do not know about these rules.

In 2021, the Ministry of Education said it had never issued any table or circular on the forms of prohibited punishments in schools. (An alleged circular had gone viral on social media).

In a statement, the ministry said that the disciplinary management procedures were based on guidelines and professional circulars, namely, the Education (School Discipline) Regulations 1959 and:

  • Circular 8/1983: Imposing Ordinary Punishment on Students Who Commit Misconduct Not Stated in Education Rules
  • Circular 7/1995: Procedures for Imposing Actions and Punishments Against Students
  • Circular 10/2001: All Teachers are Disciplinary Teachers
  • Circular 7/2003: Power of Teachers to Cane Students
  • Circular 7/2011: Implementation of Standard Operating Procedures 1:3:7 Reporting and Actions to Address Disciplinary Issues
READ MORE:  Abuse of student made to stand in the sun: Unanswered questions

Recently, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek’s special officer Thiyagaraj Sankaranarayanan said that the teacher had breached the ministry’s Professional Circular No.7/1995 Procedures on Punishment and Disciplinary Action on Students.

But the public remains unaware of the contents of this ‘procedure’ or what exactly was the non-compliance.

End the ‘secrecy’ behind Ministry of Education’s guidelines, rules and professional circulars, especially those that deal with students. In the name of transparency, they must be open to the public and made available on the ministry’s website.

Parents and students have a right to know, and such documents should never be classified as ‘official secrets’. Parents and students are more likely to report non-compliance of a teacher, rather than fellow teachers and the school head. 

Disclose what actions taken by the Ministry of Education; no need to wait for police action

Minister Fadhlina Sidek must be more transparent about what has been done with the relevant ministries’ own enforcement authorities. Have the alleged perpetrators been investigated and what are the ministry’s findings? Has the said teacher been suspended? She does not have to wait for the police and prosecution to complete their investigation and charge the perpetrator.

When a crime against a child has been committed, disciplinary punishment like warnings, transfers and fines are unjustly inadequate. What we need is for the perpetrators to be charged in court, more so in this case where the victim child, who had aspirations of becoming a police officer, has now become a person with disability and will most likely be unable to become a police officer.

Similar incidents may have occurred in the past, too. The ministry must investigate and disclose this. Action must be taken against all perpetrator-teachers who punished or tortured students in the past. Investigate all schools, and no cover-ups please.

Whilst waiting for the police and prosecutor to act, Madpet asks the ministry to disclose what action has been taken about this case that happened more than a month ago, on 30 April.

It seems that the minister is yet to even visit the victim, and yet to provide any temporary financial assistance. No report yet of Minister Fadhlina apologising to the child victim, his parents and Malaysians for the wrong done by a teacher under her ministry.

Remember, the minister’s priority must be to the children under the care of the ministry, not the protection of teachers or the state. Does the minister, in this case, advocate criminal prosecution or merely just some disciplinary measures? Madpet and everyone would like to know.

READ MORE:  Abuse of student made to stand in the sun: Unanswered questions

Suhakam and children’s commissioner should immediately inquire into this case, without waiting for complaint to be lodged

Malaysia has the Children’s Commissioner, Farah Nini Dusuki, in Suhakam. The office of the children’s commissioner under Suhakam is an independent office responsible for empowering and protecting the rights of children as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The children’s commissioner’s main role is to protect and promote the human rights of all children under 18 throughout Malaysia, regardless of their status.

So, the question is why has Suhakam, which can act on its own without the need to wait for any complaint, not yet come out of this issue involving the human rights violation of a child of 11 years?

Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission Of Malaysia Act 1999 says that: (1) The Commission may, on its own motion or on a complaint…. inquire into an allegation of the infringement of the human rights of such person or group of persons.

It is most shocking that torture and corporal punishment still exists even in Malaysian schools.

Madpet calls for an independent and professional investigations into this crime, and for a speedy prosecution of the teacher who committed this offence and of all other teachers and head who knew of the crime but chose to do nothing.

Madpet calls for the immediate public disclosure on its website by the Ministry of Education and the government of all rules, regulations, circulars and notes that set out what should and should not be done to students by teachers or the school, including punishment. Then, the people will know, and non-compliance will be brought to notice of the ministry by students, their parents or others.

Madpet calls on Education Minister Fadhlina to immediately conduct a comprehensive investigation of schools and education institutes to ensure that ‘torture’ of students by teachers is not occurring in any form. It is wrong to wait until such ‘torture’ or rights violations result in children or young persons suffering and becoming people with disabilities before the ministry acts. Prevention should be prioritised.

Madpet also calls on Minister Fadhlina to publicly apologise to the student victim and his family as the fact that the teacher punished the student by asking him to stand under the sun – which is wrong and a violation of the human rights of the child – is undisputable.

Madpet urges Malaysia to immediately ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol. – Madpet

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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