Prisoners can’t access varsity education
After six years of concerted efforts by the authorities of the Ghana Prisons Service to add value to the reformation of inmates of the country’s prisons (by encouraging them to access basic education), there appears to be some uncertainty about their pursuit of tertiary programmes.
Last year, all the 13 inmates who qualified to pursue tertiary education in the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education could not do so because they had not served their respective custodial sentences.
However, luck smiled on a 25-year-old inmate who had performed creditably and had sat for the entrance examination to pursue nursing.
He has successfully been offered admission to start the programme at the beginning of the academic year which begins next month.
The young man (name withheld), whose custodial sentence ends at the end of this month, has already attended interviews and has been offered a place to train as a nurse.
In a chat with The Mirror, the Director of Education of the Ghana Prisons Service, Chief Superintendent Peter Afari Mintah, said since the inception of the Inmates Education Programme in 2010, 13 inmates out of the 24 who had sat for the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) had qualified to pursue tertiary education but due to their confinement they had not been able to do that.
Providing statistics on the breakdown of candidates since 2010, the Director of Education said out of the 134 inmates who sat for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) over the last six years 120 of them had passed successfully minus the 2013 results which were just released.
In the WASSCE, out of the 24 candidates 13 have qualified to pursue tertiary education. With the 88 candidates who sat for the National Vocational Training Institute exams in ICT and Cookery, 34 candidates passed with four distinctions.
According to Chief Superintendent Mintah, this drawback was due to the fact that all those who qualified were still in confinement and that the service was considering a collaboration with the various universities and other tertiary institutions to roll out a Distance Education programme, since the inmates could not go through conventional education.
Chief Superintendent Mintah said, ‘it is sad that the whole concept of education for prisoners is being underplayed and it is sad that people are not appreciating the fact that prisoners have rights by UN standards and conventions which guarantees them the right to education’.
‘Prisoners equally need education and we are working around the clock to give the best of education to those who are enthusiastic to learn. We do our best to motivate them to embrace the concept because they don’t pay for anything but just to avail themselves,’ he added.
According to the Director of Education, despite all the incentives offered to the inmates, majority of them do not see the need to be part of the programme. Most of them prefer to undertake external labour by which they make some money to buy some of the basic things they need in prison to going through the education programme.
He said the programme faced some challenges which included inadequate classroom accommodation, lack of funds to carry out activities outlined in the action plan, inadequate supply of educational materials, the irregular payment of token allowances to facilitators and the transfer of facilitators and coordinators without consultation.
Chief Superintendent Mintah also called for collaboration with all stakeholders in education such as the Ghana Education Service, the Ministry of Education, among others, to support the programme.
Additionally, Chief Superintendent Mintah suggested the establishment of an Inmates Endowment Fund with its own accounts that would cater for the educational activities of all inmates, adding that there was the need to seek for sponsorship for the sustenance of the programme.
By Vance Azu/The Mirror/Ghana
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