By Angeleen Nkwocha
The Nigerian Prisons Service has clinched $20,000 cash prize, medals, a diploma as well as accorded an opportunity to visit China, the birthplace of the Chinese Educationist and Philosopher, Confucius for winning the 2018 UNESCO/Confucius Prize for Literacy, beating 70 other entries from across the world to clinch the coveted prize.
This was made known at a brief ceremony in Abuja which had the Controller General of Prisons, Ahmed Ja’afaru hand over the awards to the Minister of Interior, Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd).
Ja’afaru noted that the service currently has no fewer than 465 inmates studying undergraduate courses at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) while many others have begun their post graduate programmes.
He further noted that 23 other inmates are said to be pursuing Post-graduate studies in criminology, public administration and other programmes of choice.
The CG Prisons noted that the student-inmates were exposed to a “blend” of education with skill acquisition.
“What is unique about our programmes is the fact that we blend formal education with skills acquisition and we hope that this will be a model for this country so that the country’s university graduates can be self-employed upon graduation. We have aftercare services where we equip all the inmates that have been discharged and I am happy that they are doing well and have left the lives of crime,” he said.
An ex-inmate narrated how he took advantage of the opportunity offered by the NPS, to obtain two degrees, in succession. The ex-convict, Mr Theophilus Okechukwu, who expressed gratitude to the Service, said he obtained a Bachelor and Masters Degrees, while in Enugu prison formation.
Okechukwu, who said he was currently pursuing a Ph.D programme at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), used the occasion to present copies of a book he wrote to the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd).
The minister, who was visibly impressed with the ex-inmate’s resilience, announced that, “I’m launching the book personally for fifteen thousand naira per copy”.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), had announced the decision of the Ivory tower, to offer inmates with 5 credit passes in English Language and Mathematics, opportunity to study to Ph.D level stressing that NOUN does not educate people; but provides an enabling environment for the students to learn on their own.
Dambazau on his part urged stakeholders to scale up their assistance to prison inmates to cover their resettlement and reintegration into the society upon their release.
He said; “Education is a right to all Nigerians including prison inmates and this is one of the things we are pursuing. It is also one of the quickest ways to rehabilitate inmates. Just like we cannot ask inmates to pay for their feeding, we will not also ask them to pay for education. We must collaborate on how to sustain the educational
advancements of ex-inmates.
“In other words, it has to be total resettlement and integration programme. We must assist them in job placements too. Even marriage, we should find wives for them, we should find husbands for them. This is not a laughing matter because people discriminate against them more than any other group of persons.”