Cheers of pride and excitement filled the room as eight students graduated with higher certificates of learning despite being incarcerated at the Mangaung Correctional Centre. The inmates have been receiving their tertiary education from Unisa, with the top student graduating with five distinctions for his BA Communication Sciences degree.
Three hundred inmates received certification for various skills, including upholstery, candle making, tailoring, leatherwork, home-based care, and computers: basic Word and Excel, horticulture, office machines, cleaning services, furniture refurbishment and recycling, and basic and intermediate woodwork.
Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, said that through programmes such as this, they expect people who have undergone their rehabilitation programmes to come out as exemplary citizens. “And when we do release them, we want to be convinced that they have indeed changed their ways. The idea is that once they come out with skills and an education, they should be in a position to find employment. If not, they should be in a position to create jobs for themselves by forming companies, opening up businesses, encouraging them in fact to form small corporatives so that they can do business with the state and private sector as well,” said Holomisa.
Prof. Mandla Makhanya, Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said the skills the inmates bring when they are reintegrated back into society, should be those that actually add value.
“What is exciting is that a large percentage of inmates have actually been exposed to skills that will assist them to eke out their own subsistence before we can talk about the question of employment. But we also need education in our own communities because the stigma is the one that actually keeps them away, so if we can’t deal with that from the perspective of communities as well as employers, they will basically find themselves in a dead-end environment. We say that human beings can change, do we accept that and if we accept it, it means that we also have to change.”
Free State and Northern Cape Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services, Subashini Moodley, added that they have created a database of potential employers for inmates who are going to be released to help with the reintegration process. “We have community corrections officers that are established in the communities, so when a person qualifies for parole and leaves the correctional centre, he goes to the community corrections office where he is being monitored by reintegration officers.
Indeed the community is up in arms, indeed the violence that is taking place is unacceptable. We have to give people a second chance,” she reminded society.