Woodgrove Secondary Teacher was tried for allegedly pocketing S $ 40,000 from students



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SINGAPORE: A teacher with Woodgrove Middle School on Wednesday (November 28) claimed an experiment on two misuse charges of around S $ 40,000 was intended for student learning material.

Maslinda Zainal was sent to school in 2002, rose to become Head of Department (HOD) for English in 2006, the court heard.

In his capacity as HOD, Maslinda leads the English department, arranges the work to be done, plans for the program for students and selects materials for lessons.

The 44-year-old woman, who was reported to the vice principal and had a monthly salary of S $ 8,800, was also responsible for raising money sent by students to their English teachers to study material known as the Excel package.

These packages, which include English subjects such as grammar and understanding, are prepared by the teacher at the school.

Maslinda handed the money to the school book store, which would print material for students.

However, he allegedly raised more money from students between January 2016 and April 2017. The difference between the cost of the package and the amount he collected was around S $ 40,000.

Maslinda, represented by the Retnam Lion defense lawyer, has been suspended.

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HIDDEN LIKE A BIG OVER-COLLECTION: PRINCIPAL

The principal, Mr Chee Chit Yeng, took a stand on Wednesday as the prosecutor's first witness.

He explained to the court how fraud was first detected by the lower middle school head for English, Ms. Jacqueline Chan.

Ms Chan has asked book store owners about the material and if the package has been paid for.

"The bookstore lady said yes and showed the invoice," said Mr. Chee. "When he saw the amount reflected, it was very different from the amount collected from the students."

The information was then forwarded to Mr. Chee, and Maslinda was said to be "a person who deals with booksellers and pays payments".

"The materials should be produced by bookstores. Students must pay and buy materials directly from the bookstore," explained the principal. "That will be a normal procedure."

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After this, Mr. Chee tried to gather evidence by getting a copy of the list of all classes, a list of books published for students and invoices from the bookstore.

However, the store can only provide invoices for 2016 and 2017, because it cannot take notes from 2015 and before because there is a series of household affairs, he said.

Together with the vice principal, Mr. Chee made a table that calculated how much the package costs and how much Maslinda collected.

He found a difference of around S $ 40,000.

"Personally, I'm quite surprised that there are collections that are too large," Chee said.

He said he had had a good working relationship with Maslinda and he had been leading the department satisfactorily during his time as headmaster, starting in 2013.

After this, Mr. Chee contacted the Department of Education (MOE) disciplinary unit and made a police report on April 7, 2017.

Maslinda was later released on bail and suspended. In his absence, Ms Chan took on her role and shared her duties with other teachers.

The trial continued on Thursday.

The prosecution intends to summon at least nine witnesses, including Ms. Chan, book shop owner, teacher from the English department and MOE investigation officer.

If proven guilty of criminal offenses, Maslinda could be imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined.

Responding to a question from Channel NewsAsia, the MOE said it needed a "serious view" of educator's mistakes.

"Because this problem is before the court, we cannot disclose any details," he said.

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