AS recent as Sept 22, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek had just launched two key guidelines to handle issues of misconduct in schools, especially those related to bullying and sexual harassment.
Less than a month later, a Form Three school boy attending Sekolah Menengah Puchong Utama 1 in Taman Puchong Utama, Selangor was left partially blind after being bullied on two occasions by six other fellow schoolmates from another class.
Despite one of the teachers already in the know of the bullying, no action was taken to discipline the six bullies. This has emboldened the boys to retaliate and hit the boy more severely a second time the next day.
This time, not only did the pupil sustain fracture to his cheek bones, he even lost about 50% of his vision, yet no serious investigation was carried out by the district education office.
For a ministry as archaic as the Education Minister, this is nothing new. What Aizat Ashraf complained about in his Tik Tok video has happened to many bully cases in the past where both school and the Education Ministry officials just turned a deaf ear.
They would listen but do nothing about the complaint. Even after an investigation is carried out, the outcome is always siding the teachers or the school principal.
This is why such a video went viral and liked by over 116,000 netizens within less than 24 hours after it was broadcast.
The lackadaisical attitude of education officers towards complaints is something that Fadhina has to deal with immediately. What the ministry needs is someone like Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz whose words are “rapid fire” (the title adopted for her autobiography).
This brings to mind the case of Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, the Form 5 student whose TikTok video exposed a school teacher’s rape jokes. But instead, she was slapped with a RM1 mil defamation suit.
Failure of our education system
Schools and the district education offices, state education department and the Education Ministry are duty-bound to provide the most conducive environment where children can receive a good and decent education.
However, as the proverbial saying goes, harapkan pegar, pegar makan padi, we simply cannot depend on the very people who are supposed to protect our young ones.
That being the case, why then is the Education Ministry still keeping these people as teachers? Keeping them would definitely embolden the others. This is how the Education Ministry has turned out to be after 60 years of nationhood. No one is willing to rock the boat.
If teachers as adults are unable to intervene in a bully case, they should at least refer the case to the disciplinary teacher or the principal.
Often, school bullying cases reflect the principals. They say you have to nip the problem at the bud but these principals fail to instil discipline in the school children.
Some years ago, it was reported that At least three children were being bullied by the principal of a Chinese school in Bandar Utama. It took a couple of years of complaints before finally the principal was transferred to another school within 24 hours’ notice.
In the same case, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) was siding the principal rather than the bully victims.
Now, because of what happened at SMK Puchong Utama 1, everyone at the Education Ministry from district level to the minister gets the bad name. Not taking stern actions against errant principals and teachers is no longer an option for the minister if she is serious about making reforms to make the schools a safer place for the children.
Weed out underperforming education officers
Fadhina should also look at the district education officers who are supposed to take the case seriously but failed to prevent such a bully incident. There is no excuse for both the district chief and the investigating officers for not acting fast.
Now that the case can be classified as causing injury to a fellow human being, the police also would have to take up the case seriously and recommend to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to charge the bullies for a criminal offence under Penal Code section 323 which carries “imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to two thousand ringgit or with both.”
Such lackadaisical attitude should stop if we are serious about reforming the Malaysian education system. – Oct 16, 2023