By Robert Tapfumaneyi
INMATES serving time and simultaneously pursuing studies in most of the country’s prisons often fail to take part in final public examinations because the government does not have money to pay for their examinations fees.
This is according to a recent Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum report on Zimbabwean prison conditions.
The crisis has been noted among young offenders whose Grade 7, ‘0’ and ‘A’ Level end of year finals are compulsory.
The NGO group, in its report titled Rights Behind Bars, said the state should address the issue of exam fees, shortages on qualified staff and learning materials at many prisons and detention facilities around the country.
“While in prison, school is voluntary for adults. You can go to school or you can choose not to. That provision is there. It’s a choice for the prisoner to take it or not,” said Kenia Shonhai, a project lawyer with Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
“But for the young offenders, one has to attend school whether they like it or not. But the biggest challenge is that most of them have failed to write the final examinations because the government has no funds to pay their examination fees.
“At Whawha, young offenders have a nice school building, well-built classrooms. When we visited the prison, the teachers were there. The children were going to school.
“But the major issue is of exam fees. The government does not have the funds to pay for their fees.”
He added, “Some are only able to write if well-wishers donate or pay for their exams fees, particularly faith based organisations.
“It is the same issue with adults studying tertiary courses. Most institutions did not have materials and qualified staff to teach the inmates.”
Commenting on the findings, Zimbabwe Prison Correctional Service (ZPCS) deputy commissioner human resources Fadzayi Mupure said the all prisoners do not forfeit their right to education by virtue of their detention in jails.
“The education of illiterate prisoners and of young prisoners is compulsory and special attention should be paid to it by prison administration and where it is fairly possible and barring any other compelling considerations, the education of prisoners, including juveniles must be provided by qualified teachers and integrated with the educational system of the country so that after their released they may continue their education without difficulty,” she said.