Teacher allegedly misappropriated about $40,000 meant for students' learning materials

Maslinda Zainal allegedly misappropriated more than $21,000 in cash between Jan 1 and Dec 31, 2016, and almost $20,000 between Jan 1 and April 7 last year. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - Students at Woodgrove Secondary School had handed over cash for learning materials but their English Head of Department (HOD) allegedly pocketed about $40,000 of the money.

Maslinda Zainal, 44, who has been suspended, is accused of two counts of criminal breach of trust, the court heard on Wednesday (Nov 28), the first day of her trial.

She allegedly misappropriated more than $21,000 in cash at the school in Woodlands Avenue 6 between Jan 1 and Dec 31, 2016.

Between Jan 1 and April 7 last year, she is said to have misappropriated cash totalling almost $20,000.

The court heard that Maslinda joined the school in 2002 and became its English HOD four years later.

She was then tasked to collect the students' money which they had handed over to their English teachers for learning materials known as Excel packages.

These were prepared by teachers at the school, the court heard.

Maslinda allegedly handed some of the cash to the school bookshop and misappropriated about $40,000.

Deputy Public Prosecutors David Koh and Stephanie Chew stated in the opening address that a subject head at the school, Madam Jacqueline Chan Yen Ling, was the first person to discover the discrepancies between the amount collected by the English department and the sum given in the bookshop's invoice.

Woodgrove Secondary School principal Chee Chit Yeng told the court on Wednesday Madam Chan asked the bookshop owner about the matter.

Mr Chee said the "bookshop lady" then showed the invoices to Madam Chan, who found the amount was significantly different from that collected from the students.

His investigation showed the discrepancy amounted to about $40,000.

"Personally, I was quite shocked that there was such a large over-collection," Mr Chee told District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam.

He informed the Education Ministry's discipline unit about the matter and made a police report in April last year.

The trial resumes on Thursday and Maslinda is out on bail of $30,000.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the ministry said it takes a serious view of educator misconduct.

Its spokesman added: "As the matter is before the courts, we are unable to reveal any details."

If convicted of criminal breach of trust, Maslinda can be jailed up to 10 years and fined for each charge.

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