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Prison inmates outperformed the overall national pass rate

25 February 2021 - 19:34 By naledi shange
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has hailed the matriculants of 2020 who beat the odds and got their qualification.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has hailed the matriculants of 2020 who beat the odds and got their qualification.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The matric pass rate of pupils who wrote their final examinations behind bars in 2020 was 86.3%, the department of correctional services (DCS) said on Thursday.

Delivering the outcomes of the matric exams at the Leeuwkop Correctional Centre in Bryanston, Johannesburg, justice and corrections minister Ronald Lamola boasted that this was higher than the national pass rate of 76.2%.

Lamola said this was the highest pass rate that inmates had achieved in the past five years.

“Educational attainment in DCS has been significantly improving, looking at the pass rate that inmates have been achieving over the years. Indeed, one can say that we have registered significant strides,” he said.

In 2015 the DCS recorded a 72.9% pass rate. In 2016 that dropped to 72.1%. In 2017, there was a significant jump to 76.7% while in 2018 it rose to 77.3%. In 2019 the figure reached 82.6% and now it has climbed to 86.3%.

“Our learners also obtained a total of 76 distinctions and we also produced 78 bachelor’s passes, which is a minimum requirement for admission to university for a bachelor’s degree,” said Lamola.

The best-performing inmate was Lwazi Chamane who is incarcerated at the uSethubeni Youth Centre in Durban.

He obtained an average of 80.6% and bagged four distinctions, in isiZulu, life orientation, history and tourism.

“It should also be noted that uSethubeni centre in Westville registered 19 inmates, all of whom passed and are eligible to study for [a bachelor's] qualification,” said Lamola.

“Five schools [out of the 17 which service the DCS] achieved a 100% pass rate. We are pleased that our results increased even under the 2020 unprecedented conditions. We congratulate our learners and teachers for their resilience,” said Lamola.

Education behind bars was not spared the wrath of Covid-19. The DCS said it lost two of its teachers to the virus. Studying in the pandemic, class attendance was also disrupted, leading to inmates being steered towards virtual learning.

“One of the approaches we implemented and intensified was access to online tutoring and learning by inmates. Most of the inmates responded positively to this approach. They ably confronted significant challenges and Covid-19 could not hinder their desire to do well in their studies,” said Lamola.

“In preparing for the 2020 school year, we ensured that each correctional centre school drew up a curriculum recovery plan to make up for lost time. This also meant that inmates needed to complete the majority of related activities in their cells.

“What also assisted us were the educational programmes that the department of basic education broadcast on television and radio stations which inmates had access to. As DCS, we are gearing our systems towards online education offerings as classroom teaching and learning to continue to experience disruptions caused by the pandemic,” he said.

“Relevant equipment and other tools are being procured in order for inmates to be able to access online digital content. These resources will be used by offenders to access curriculum content, as well as to view lessons on relevant platforms.

“For any nation to grow and prosper, it must invest in education and nurture it at all levels. This dictates that the prioritisation of education is not just for some in society, or particular structures in government, but all sections of society must make education their priority,” he said.