NATION

Sacked Teacher Wins Job After Landmark Decision

Gayleshni Kumar, a Year Three teacher at Lautoka Zhong Hua Primary School, is the first teacher terminated for allegedly using corporal punishment, to win reinstatement.
29 Feb 2020 09:52
Sacked Teacher Wins Job After Landmark Decision
Gayleshni Kumar with her family - husband Rohit Kumar and their two sons Rahil Rakshit Kumar and Rikhil Riyansh Kumar.

A primary school teacher, sacked for allegedly using corporal punishment, is to be reinstated.

Resident Magistrate Indula Ratnayake made this landmark ruling in the Employment Relations Tribunal in Lautoka yesterday, saying her termination was unlawful.

Gayleshni Kumar, a Year Three teacher at Lautoka Zhong Hua Primary School, is the first teacher terminated for allegedly using corporal punishment, to win reinstatement.

She said: “I have faith in the judicial system. This case shows the judiciary is always independent, impartial and transparent.”

Gayleshni Kumar can’t wait to go back to teaching at any school as directed by the Ministry of Education.

This is after the Employment Relations Tribunal in Lautoka ruled yesterday in a landmark decision that she was unlawfully dismissed for allegedly inflicting corporal punishment.

She would return as soon as the Ministry of Education complies with Resident Magistrate Indula Ratnayake’s order for her reinstatement. Mrs Kumar would not lose any wages and other benefits during her absence from work. It means her pay will be restored from the day she was dismissed on July 13, 2018 from Lautoka Zhong Hua Primary School.

Ms Kumar, a mother of two, said: “I miss my Year Three students.”

After she was dismissed, she took her grievances to her union, the Fiji Teachers Union, which engaged Suva lawyer Damodaran Nair.

Damodaran Nair.

Damodaran Nair.

A parent of one student had raised allegations against her. They included claims of bullying and discriminatory behaviour towards students, ignoring complaints made by the complainant’s son.

A three-member panel conducted an investigation into these allegations.

The investigation panel reported to the Permanent Secretary that there was a case to answer against Mrs Kumar for inflicting corporal punishment on students.

Based on the findings of the panel Mrs Kumar was dismissed. However, under cross examination by Mr Nair, the panel’s chairperson admitted there was no conclusive evidence of corporal punishment.

The Ministry of Education maintained the position that the dismissal was lawful and fair and submitted a number of documents as exhibits.

Mrs Kumar claimed that the investigation panel on its own volition had questioned certain students in her class on whether she had inflicted corporal punishment on students. She denied this allegation and claimed there was no conclusive evidence to establish that she used corporal punishment on students. She further claimed that she was not accorded the rules of natural justice during the disciplinary process. The ministry failed to adhere to rules of natural justice during the disciplinary process. She maintained the position that the dismissal was unlawful and unfair.

After analysing all the evidence, Mr Ratnayake concluded that the ministry failed to conduct reasonable investigations into the allegation which caused Mrs Kumar’s dismissal.

In the circumstances, he said the decision to dismiss Mrs Kumar was not within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer. He said the dismissal was unlawful.

But he ruled that there was no evidence before the Tribunal to demonstrate that Mrs Kumar was unnecessarily humiliated causing her distress in terminating the services. He dismissed Mrs Kumar’s claim for unfairness.

In deciding to reinstate Mrs Kumar, Mr Ratnayake considered the remarks of the school’s head teacher who said she was “a very dedicated teacher” and no complaints had been received against her about inflicting corporal punishment on students.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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