Minister wants prospective teachers to be thoroughly screened

Date:

KUCHING: Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah has called for immediate action on the rape case involving a teacher in Bintulu, and the detailed screening of prospective teachers before they are hired.

The Minister for Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development revealed that the case involving the alleged rape and outraging of modesty of female students at SMK Sebauh in July, had caused concern among the community.

She commended the victims for being brave in coming forward, although it must have not been easy for them.

“Teachers are supposed to be a figure of authority, respect and trust, but sadly for these innocent children, it’s a case of harapkan pegar, pegar makan padi (A Malay proverb that means when a person is relied upon and trusted to protect something, yet he is the one who’s destroying that object of protection).

“They will be psychologically affected, perhaps for life. Therefore, I urge other victims of the same alleged perpetrator, if any, to come forward because you deserve justice.

“Nobody is above the law and this crime must not go unpunished,” she told the media here today.

Among the first concerns brought up by Fatimah, was students need schools to be safe places with trusted staff but sadly, this was not the first incidence of sexual abuse in schools.

Secondly, she stated that it was essential that authorities take prompt action to ensure the victim’s safety as well as giving all the support needed, including medical and psychological services.

“The survivors can also go to the One-Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) at hospitals where they can get all the necessary support or treatment.

“The third concern is the school community and those in the victim’s village … they should empathise and not further victimise and stigmatise them.”

Fatimah added that there was also a need for those working with children, whether in the public or private sector, to implement safeguards. 

In addition, the federal government should also make a policy to oblige detailed background checks of prospective teachers to ensure that they do not have any criminal record.

“Other than that, I also urge the police, both here in Sarawak and the Peninsular, the Immigration Department and the Education Department to step up their efforts to bring the perpetrator to justice and call for a thorough investigation, not just limited to Section 376 of the Penal Code for statutory rape and Section 14(a) Sexual Offences Against Children Act, 2017.

“According to the Sebauh/Tatau District Education Office, the case has been forwarded to the Sarawak Education Department’s Management and Professional Group Disciplinary Board.

“The suspect’s wages have been withheld for not showing up for duty,” she said.

In order to provide assistance to the victims, her ministry was ready to provide counselling and emotional support to ease the effects of the trauma experienced.

Fatimah pointed out that age-appropriate sessions should be given to students so that they are alert to grooming, and they should also be made aware of where to go for help if an adult is behaving inappropriately in any way.

On Aug 10, Bintulu OCPD Supt Batholomew Umpit said the perpetrator, Tengku Nasrul Haizal Mohd Nasir, 33, from Tumpat, Kelantan, was wanted to facilitate investigation into the alleged rape case.

Those who have information can contact investigating officer Insp Nurikman Hadi at 019-3517155 or the Bintulu police operations room at 086-318304.

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