Studying in toilets pays off for inmates…as offenders graduate from behind bars
Selma Ikela Windhoek-Studying in toilets when the lights are turned off and trying to study with little material and with no tutors are some of the challenges offenders face while trying to further academic aspirations through distance learning while incarcerated. Offenders at Windhoek Correctional Facility lifted the veil on the challenges they face as they attempt to rehabilitate themselves through education. “Our lights (in the unit) go out at 21h00, from there you make provision, you go to the toilet (which has separate lighting) to study, and do your assignments,” said Morris Sibitwani a convict who obtained a diploma in accounting and auditing from the University of Namibia last year. Sibitwani, 39, and two fellow inmates shared their stories on how they persevered studying in a correctional facility. Sibitwani stated the prison offers a study area for inmates where they are taken during their temporary release from respective cells to do their schoolwork. He said he was forced to continue to study in the ablution facility at night when the workload was too much. “The facilitate provides studying offenders with a table and chair so you lift it to the toilet when lights are turned off . If fellow offenders want to use the toilet, you excuse them,” stated Sibitwani, a former long distance bus driver. His academic record is decorated with distinctions, B and C symbols as an indication of his commitment to his studies. Sibitwani is sentenced to 30 years for murdering his girlfriend and has already served 15 years. He is hopeful he will go on parole soon. When Sibitwani was incarcerated in Windhoek in 2003, from Katima Mulilo, he underwent training and became a literacy promoter tasked with teaching fellow inmates. Although he already had a grade 12 certificate, he decided to enrol with Namcol to study commerce related subjects as he desired to do study accounting with Unam. “I am hoping to get a job once released. It has been my dream and I don’t want to go struggling once I am out. That’s why I am preparing myself while I am here,” stated Sibitwani who desires to become a chartered accountant. He still has other academic aspirations and plans to complete a certificate in local government with Namcol this year. Sibitwani’s education is being funded by his family. Asked how it is like studying while behind bars, Sibitwani responded that it is challenging, as sometimes study materials get torn when jail wardens conduct searches in the cells. During a visit to the correctional facility, acting head of education Theofillus Kadhimo shared statistics of offenders who enrolled in various education programmes in the past four years. A total of 819 offenders were enrolled in various programmes with local universities, Namcol grade 10 and 12 courses and literacy programmes. The facility also has a workshop that offers vocational training in areas such as motor mechanics, tailoring and electrical courses. Another offender, Mateus Nuugonya graduated with a diploma in Education for Development with Namcol last year. Nuugonya, 30, schooling career came to an end in Grade 12 during 2006, when he had sexual intercourse with his young school girlfriend. A rape case was opened against him. The girlfriend was 16 and he was 18-years-old at the time. So far, Nuugonya has served nine years of his 16 years’ imprisonment term. He regrets what he did. Nuugonya decided to turn his life around by acquiring an education and bettering himself by attending additional programmes offered at the facility. “The reason I decided to study is because prison is not the end of me. I want to prove that I will come out a better person. I went to prison and will come out with a qualification,” stated Nuugonya who started off by enrolling for grade 10 with Namcol. He also became a literacy teacher at the beginning of his sentence. He explained that he never got his grade 12 certificate and until now he does not know how he performed, hence used his grade 10 certificate to initially enrol at Namcol, for two grade 12 subjects he missed to write at the time of his arrest. Asked how it is to study at the facility, Nuugonya responded: “It is not easy to study when incarcerated. There are many challenges. You have to form up your own timetable. I had a lot of activities going on last year. I was attending a thinking and living skills programme, attending welding and metal fabrication at the facility, and working and at the same time, I was doing my diploma. Hence I drew up my own timetable to fit in all my activities accordingly.” Nuugonya added they have an education centre but resources are inadequate. “We don’t have a library and accessing computers at the facility is difficult. I had research methods as a subject in my course, which required me to gather information on the computer. As a result, I failed my first assignment because I had no access to the computer. I was demoralised but I didn’t give up,” he added. Nuugonya decided to ask his sister to help research information on the internet which he needed. “But for the diploma assignment, you need type it up, so two weeks before the deadline I wrote it up, sent it to my sister who helped me type it up and submit it at the institution on my behalf”. Although Nuugonya is experiencing financial problems now to enrol for further studies at a tertiary institution he will concentrate on welding offered at the facility for this year. He plans to go for trade testing with VTC this year. A third offender who is upgrading his grade 12 is Challo Manga Collins. He has 23 points and aims to get enough points for university. He plans to study accounting and auditing as well. He wishes the facility would provide additional study materials for offenders studying. “It will be good if they give us previous examination question papers. If you compare a person studying on distance without a tutor it is difficult,” said Challo. Acting head of education at the facility Superintendent Kadhimo added that correctional facilities are not merely a lock-up for offenders but are places where convicts are rehabilitated into productive members of society. “We do not just lock them up but rehabilitate them to go back into society-with acquired skills to be civilised and make the right decisions. They also rehabilitate themselves through education”.
New Era Reporter
2018-02-02 10:46:07 9 months ago