KUALA LUMPUR: After serving 18 years in the teaching profession in Selangor, Yahaya Wahi finally made a transfer request to Gerik in Perak.
The 44-year-old teacher wanted to be near his wife who is also a teacher as well as her aged mother in Kelantan.
On Dec 16, 2012, he accepted a transfer to SK RPS Kemar and was prepared to serve in the school located in the interior of Gerik.
However, the science and mathematics teacher failed to report himself at the school on the said date, only appearing for work on April 3, 2013.
This was because he discovered that he had to reach the school by boat across a lake.
He did not teach at SK RPS Kemar until he discovered a land route to the school — a logging trail on May 16, 2017.
Yahaya has a phobia of water due to a near-drowning incident during his childhood, which was further compounded by witnessing the drowning death of his elder brother.
He received medical attention in a government hospital in Sungai Petani and was referred to its psychiatry department in 2015.
Yahaya stated his medical condition to SK RPS Kemar's principal when the latter initiated disciplinary action against him in 2019.
In his four years of absence, Yahaya tried to discuss his case with the authorities and requested another transfer, but it fell on deaf ears.
Yahaya was dismissed from the teaching service on Aug 9, 2019, and all his emoluments were stopped from Aug 6, 2019.
Yahaya later filed a judicial review at the Taiping High Court to quash his dismissal and be reinstated as a teacher at any other school which is reachable via a land route.
He named former Education Service Commission chairman Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof, Hulu Perak District Education Office, Perak Education Department, Education Ministry, and the government as respondents.
Today, Taiping High Court judge K. Muniandy, in allowing Yahaya's judicial review application, said Yahaya's dismissal was against the nature of justice and procedural fairness.
"There has been wanton disregard of the applicable regulations and a decision was made to dismiss Yahaya which amounts to contravention of natural justice.
"It is apparent that a fair and just process was not undertaken by respondents when they arrived at their decision to terminate Yahaya from the teaching service, (as) his absence at work was only due to dire medical reasons.
"To crown things, Yahaya was not informed of his right to appeal to a Disciplinary Appeal Board and no reasons were rendered by the respondents for his failure to do so.
"Thus, without the right to appeal afforded to Yahaya, an inbuilt mechanism available to him, the decision made by respondents to terminate his teaching service is invalid," he said.
Muniandy said students were also deprived of a valuable science and mathematics teacher due to the respondents' failure to act timely and impartially in this case.
"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 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 interiors of Gerik, which needed immediate and urgent attention by the respondents," he said.
Muniandy said Yahaya had submitted a myriad of medical reports as evidence of his phobia for water, which disabled him from commuting to work via a water route.
"It is not a case of him not wanting to work, especially when he has an exemplary service record as a teacher.
"He could have refused the transfer immediately when he received it, but he soldiered on. However, he failed due to his phobia.
"It is quite clear that he was not faking it, but he genuinely faced a real problem, to which the respondents turned a blind eye," he added.