IN spite of the generally unhealthy conditions that convicted person live in prisons across Nigeria, it is heartwarming to learn that many inmates in virtually all the correctional facilities in the country are embracing education with zest, with some of them emerging with overall best results in exams.
Spokesman of the Nigerian Prisons Service in Enugu, Chukwuemeka Monday, announced in January this year, that Chukwunonso Nomeh, an inmate convicted in 2010, emerged as the overall best graduating student in Master of Business Administration with the highest Grade Point Average of 3.80 in the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN. In 2014, another convict, Theophilus Adeniyi, had also emerged as NOUN’s overall graduating best student.
Also in the Lagos Prison Command, two inmates, Tunwase Kabiru and Oladipupo Moshood, have enrolled for their Doctorate degrees in Business Administration and Peace and Conflict Resolution respectively at the NOUN. Just last week, the Controller of the Lagos State Command of the Prisons Service, Mr. Tunde Ladipo, disclosed that 157 inmates within his division were registered for the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations, WASSCE.
Added to the announcement by the NOUN in January this year that it was offering free admission to 430 prisoners, an inspiring picture of the blooming of educational pursuits behind prison walls in the country is emerging.
There is no doubt that this positive trend follows on the heels of sustained advocacy by interest groups, including the National Stakeholders Committee on Prison Reforms and Decongestion, SCPRD, the Prisoners Reform and Welfare Association, PRAWA, religious bodies and others, which have helped sensitize the prison authorities, the government and the inmates on the need to promote education as a giant strategy towards turning convicted criminals into useful members of society.
Offenders who go into the prisons and come out with exceptional skills or quality academic achievements are bound to see themselves at a higher station in life with new purpose and incentive to contribute to the development of society. But this can only be possible when they are offered the opportunities to put their skills to use. In a society where thousands of young people who do not have criminal records graduate from our educational system only to be dumped in the dry jobless market, it takes great courage for those in prison to pin their hope for future self-actualisation on education.
While we commend the prison authorities, advocacy groups and especially the NOUN for creating opportunities for prisoners to upgrade their vocational and academic skills, we believe that special schemes to offer ex-inmates soft landing when they get out of jail must be put in place for them. Any convicted criminal who chooses to change for the better must be given the opportunity and incentive to do so.