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Jabulile Gumede is serving 10 years in jail for the attempted murder of her boyfriend, but she is determined not to let the missteps of her past to cloud her future.
The 54-year-old Empangeni woman was among 240 Westville Prison inmates recognised on Wednesday for their educational achievements.
The mother of five is completing Grade 12 through the Education Department’s Adult Basic Education and Training programme.
She said she planned to put her qualification to good use when she was released in two years.
“When I am released, I want to go home to (establish) a crèche,” Gumede said.
“Being an inmate does not mean that your hands and feet are tied… you can still do something positive in your life.
“I will be leaving with a qualification – something I might not have been able to complete if I had not been in this place.”
Gumede last attended school in 1980, when she was in Grade 10 and failed.
She has had a long journey of personal growth.
She was arrested after pouring heated cooking oil over her partner and striking him three times on the head with a panga.
“It was not premeditated, but I acted out of anger after he had come home drunk that night and beat me to a pulp.
“He had abused me for five years and I had not reported him to the police because I kept thinking that he would change.”
Gumede said she had realised what she had done only after the third blow.
“I dropped the panga and ran to the police station to confess and hand myself over.
“I pleaded guilty in court because I was remorseful. I understood that I had committed a crime and was ready to do jail time,” Gumede said, with tears in her eyes.
She said women should report abuse.
“Look at me, I am so old and I am in jail,” Gumede said.
“This is not where I am supposed to be.
“Never take the law into your own hands. If I had reported the abuse… I would not be here.
“It is a challenge at times to study while you are in jail because there are times when I arrive late for class.
“I was determined to get an education and, 32 years later, I will be getting a matric. I am sorry, deeply sorry, for what I did.”
Another inmate who has been using his time in prison well is Khulekani Ngcobo.
The 40-year-old has completed a BA, majoring in adult education.
He is now in his second year of working for a Master’s through Unisa.
He has been serving a life sentence since 2001 for murder and robbery.
The sentence has been reduced and it expected he will be released in 2014.
“I have reconciled with the victim’s family and I have learnt that hard work goes a long way, while nothing comes easily in life,” said Ngcobo.
Addressing the inmates before the prize-giving ceremony, the acting regional commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Andile Mdletshe, said rehabilitation was a two-way process.
“Correctional officers are there to lead and the offenders must follow,” he said.
“The offenders did not allow the situation they were incarcerated in to hold them back, but improved their lives by developing themselves while they were in the cells.”
KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Education superintendent-general, Nkosinathi Sishi, said: “In the schooling system, we need to encourage everyone to embrace the principle of lifelong learning.
“Education is for everyone to make the country a better place.”