The Namibian College of Open Learning recently awarded 41 students with scholarships to improve their grades, including 10 inmates from the Windhoek Correctional Facility.
The college realised the economic constraints of learners not having the means to enrol, hence the establishment of the annual scholarships worth N$350 000 for the 2022 academic year.
One of the recipients, Kelvin Bradley Coleman, said he only got to realise the importance of education when he was incarcerated.
“I applied through the correctional facility for a scholarship and it was successful, and I am grateful. This is an opportunity given to me, which I never took outside,” he stated. “Outside, it is like you are always busy with the wrong stuff, and inside you get more insight to see and understand things better and differently. The onus is in now in my hands to take it from here,” Coleman added.
Another inmate at the facility, Mellissa Vries (28), told New Era this is an opportunity of a lifetime because education is expensive.
“It is hard to pay for studies nowadays, especially while being in a correctional facility. This will help me improve my life so that when I get out of here, I have something to take along,” she said.
Overall, Vries said this is a great chance to look at life differently as the scholarship will aid her in becoming a better person.
Ricardo Katzao (35), stated that this is not his first time to get the scholarship, and it has made a huge impact on his life.
“These opportunities play a big role in the rehabilitation process. I am thankful to get an opportunity like this; it is highly motivating,” he shared. He said since entering the facility, through education, it has made his family bond stronger.
“This brought my family back to me. I started studying after realising I need to change my life. I would, therefore, encourage the rest to study hard and take their education seriously,” said Katzao.
This is not the first time that the college is opening its doors to inmates for funding opportunities.
In 2018, Namcol granted offenders an opportunity to study. In 2019, the college awarded 25 scholarships for offenders to improve their marks for grades 10 and 12.
Namcol’s director Heroldt Murangi said the college is trying its level best to be inclusive and to accommodate Namibians with studying opportunities.
Of the total allocation, N$75 000 is earmarked for both the northern and southern regions, N$50 000 for both the north-eastern and central regions, N$100 000 to tertiary programmes, N$5 000 to men at the side of the road, and N$5 000 to the Windhoek Correctional Facility.
“Due to Covid-19, people are unable to afford their studies, and that is why we have taken this initiative as part of our corporate social responsibility to assist those who cannot help themselves,” stated Murangi.
He mentioned that some scholarship recipients, however, don’t hold their end of the bargain when it comes to the whole arrangement as some never submit assessment activities, take oral assessments or write tests or examinations.
“A certain percentage of these students awarded scholarships hardly submit assignments. My appeal is for this batch to behave differently. It is about your future; we are just facilitating the process for you,” shared Murangi.
“To those who have been demanding Namcol to have face-to-face teachings, the institution is an open distance e-learning one, and can’t function like A. Shipena or Jan Möhr. Our student population is close to 40 000, and there is no way we will be able to run it like a conventional institution.”
‘You are not stupid’
Murangi said just because the prospective students are at Namcol doesn’t mean they are dull or stupid.
“Maybe during the exam period, you were not focused enough or you had numerous challenges, and now we tend to blame Covid-19. I am also standing here as someone who failed Standard 7, but I am here today as the head of this institution. I failed Standard 7 and I had to repeat, so there is no need to feel bad. We all fail in life,” he recalled.
“There is always a perception out there that Namcol is for failures, but I think we have changed the mindset of people. Be the ambassador of the institution out there, defend it.”