The Namibian education system gives prisoners hope of a better future, once they are released. 35 inmates are currently upgrading their Grades 10 and 12 results through the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL). There are, however, less than 10 inmates in NAMCOL’s Tertiary Level Programmes.
“All the prisoners are on non-contact mode. In other words, they receive their material, they do their assignments and they submit through their education office. That’s how we deal with them. When it comes to exams, they come to the exam centre with the guards and write their exams”, explained Mandume Kaukungua, NAMCOL spokesperson.
He said the inmates are not separated from other students when writing exams, as that would be discriminatory. Guards are, however, placed right outside the examination venue.
It is not clear whether the 45 enrolled convicts are juveniles or adults. This is due to the fact that NAMCOL does not differentiate between out-of-school youth and adults at registration. For that reason, that data is not available.
The institution also does not offer any specially-tailored courses for inmates. Nonetheless, NAMCOL caters for prisoners seeking a better education. The Villager discovered that the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) also allows prisoners to enrol, but only on the distance education mode.
“We facilitate their examinations at the prison through the cooperation of the prison officials. At one stage, the Ministry of Correctional Services had quite an active and targeted study programme for prisoners, so we had quite a number of students enrolled”, enthused Antonette Kakujaha, Public Relations Officer at NUST.
The United Nations Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, no 6, states that “all prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality.” A prisoner’s social, economic and cultural background should, however, be taken into consideration.
High priority should be given for prison authorities to provide access to an adequate library, and to educate young and/or illiterate prisoners. It is also encouraged that the outside community must get involved in educational and cultural activities in prisons.
“Secure prisons are essential to making our justice system an effective weapon against crime. When prisoners – convicted or awaiting trial – are entrusted to your care, they must know and the public must know that they will remain there until they are legally discharged. The full contribution which our prisons can make towards a permanent reduction in the country’s crime rate lies also in the way in which they treat prisoners. We cannot emphasise enough the importance of both professionalism and respect for human rights”, said Nelson Mandela.