Results put prison school in second spot nationally.
Convicted murderers, thieves and armed robbers at St Albans Prison joined the thousands of matriculants who completed secondary schooling. And, in doing so, they doubled the facility’s matric pass rate.
Five out of six matrics received their certificates during a celebratory lunch at the St Albans main hall yesterday.
The results are a significant improvement from 2013 which produced a 41.1% pass rate in comparison to last year’s 83.3%.
The results put the St Albans school in second spot nationally, behind the Gauteng-based Emthonjeni Correctional Facility.
St Albans’ top matriculant, Kwanga Mhlanga, 29, who has served four years of his 18-year sentence for armed robbery, achieved a diploma pass.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to have passed matric. My dream of owning my own IT company is what kept me driven. It is very hard to study in prison because a lot of the inmates make fun of you and pick on you for studying.
“But on January 6 when we saw we passed they were all forced to swallow their words. Now those same guys are coming to me to find out about studying because they want to do their matric also,” he said.
Mhlanga’s mother, Fezeka, said: “I am immensely proud of my son. As a parent you can never throw your child away regardless of what they’ve done.
“And I thank God for the support and patience he gave me with Kwanga, because he is truly remorseful and is rectifying his mistakes.”
Fellow matriculant Calvan Fredricks, 42, who is serving a life sentence for murder, said he pursued his matric to give back to the community.
“I feel like a child again. The excitement I have is unlike anything else. I have enrolled to further my studies through the Theological Education by Extension College this year.
“I know I owe it to my family and community to give back positively for all the negative I have done. And through becoming a full-time minister I know I will be able to make a valuable contribution,” Fredricks said.
Correctional Services Department regional commissioner Nkosinathi Breakfast delivered the keynote address.
“We are steadily increasing the matric results annually, which is very encouraging to see. The reason for this is because I believe the matrics in prison are more motivated than the children at home. After school kids go home and these guys go back to their cells longing for better things,” Breakfast said.
“One of the major challenges with schooling in prison since we established it in 2002, is the lack of teachers. But we are working with the Department of Education to solve it.
“So we are making progress. One must remember the courts don’t send these people to prison to rot here, but rather to be rehabilitated and reintroduced into society,” Breakfast said.
Correctional Services Department spokesman Zama Feni said of the facility’s 5 344 inmates, 12 had enrolled to do their matric this year.
– Tremaine van Aardt