Pretoria – For 170 inmates from prisons across Gauteng, months of hard work and determination paid off on Wednesday when they were awarded their certificates, diplomas and degrees during a graduation ceremony at Pretoria Prison.
With their friends and family looking on, the inmates, who had swapped their prison overalls for gowns, proudly took to the stage during the ceremony which was presided over by the University of South Africa (Unisa) and officials from the Department of Correctional Services.
One by one, the men and women were awarded qualifications ranging from certificates to degrees in different fields of study, to much applause.
Among the graduates was top achiever 63-year-old Casper Greeff, who was awarded a doctorate in Biblical Archaeology.
Acting Regional Commissioner for Gauteng Kenny Bouwer appealed to companies to employ inmates who had qualifications once they were released.
“They (the prisoners) made a mistake, they’ve done the time and now they are prepared to come back and contribute to society. They must be given that opportunity,” he said.
Bouwer noted the prisoners received funding for their studies from their families, sponsors or bursaries.
He urged the public to consider offering financial support to the inmates saying an education would go a long way in helping with their rehabilitation process.
Prisoners who were studying received no special treatment and still had to deal with all the challenges of being in prison, making their achievements of those who graduated all the more remarkable, Bouwer said.
Addressing the prisoners during the graduation ceremony, Dr Dinah Magano, a senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, said the prisoners had proved that they were bigger than their mistakes.
“You have shown that your dreams of becoming educated cannot be restricted by the walls of this prison. Truly, you have every reason to marvel at your achievements and be proud of who you are,” she said.
Magano also encouraged the prisoners to use their newly gained knowledge and skills in a manner that benefit society and the economy.
“The technical skills or trade skills that you have received here are regarded as scarce skills in this country. These skills will help you to be absorbed into the world of work or start your own businesses,” she added.
Magano also acknowledged the role played by the department and congratulated it for allowing inmates to learn and acquire skills while in prison.
Source – BuaNews