Matric top achievers at Westville Prison with their teacher. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency (ANA)
Matric top achievers at Westville Prison with their teacher. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency (ANA)

Westville prisoners celebrate as they beat the odds and matriculate

By Zainul Dawood Time of article published Feb 24, 2021

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Durban - Five inmates who attended the Usethubeni Youth School at the Department of Correctional Services (DCC) in Westville beat the hardships of imprisonment to pass matric.

They were awarded their certificates and a prize of a laptop at the Grade 12 results awards ceremony held virtually by the Department of Education on Tuesday. They were the top 5 pupils at correctional services in the Pinetown District. Most of them were juveniles when they committed crimes.

Nhlakanipho Mbatha, 26, from Claremont, chose economics, accounting, isiZulu, English, maths and tourism. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for hijacking and is expected to be paroled in 2025. He said there were 35 prisoners in a cell motivating one another to study. He has applied to study teaching through the University of South Africa (Unisa).

“My mother will be proud of me. I disappointed her when I was imprisoned. I have shown her that I have changed. There is hope. I want to transfer the knowledge that I have to the upcoming generation. People have the right to hate prisoners because we have wronged them. Give us the benefit of the doubt. Change is possible. We are no longer the same person. We are trying to better our lives. We did wrong then but we are changed.”

Ndlangisa Siviwe, 21, of Umzimkulu, served nearly two years of a 10-year sentence for aggravated robbery. He found it easier to study in prison. Siviwe applied to study accounting science.

“The ambience here and the people I was studying with were motivating factors. I was more focused in prison. Change starts with you first. How you see yourself and where you want to be. You have to work towards it. I will be successful one day.”

Sabelo Vilakazi, 27, of Ntuzuma, chose English, maths, life science, geography, life orientation and history. He has served six years of a 13-year sentence.

“I used the light up a section in the toilet to study. The room lights are off at night. I did not join any prison gang. You are not forced to, but your life is still threatened. You have to know your position in the cell and corridors because those not in the gang can be a target. These are the obstacles we faced while studying.”

Ayanda Ndlovu, 21, of Pietermaritzburg, completed seven years of a murder sentence and wants to pursue a career in accounting or actuarial science.

“My advice to others out there is if you want to progress, know your strengths and weaknesses. Fight to change your weakness into a strength. Believe in yourself. Don't join the wrong crowd.”

Siviwe, Vilakazi and Ndlovu were released on parole on February 5.

The Daily News

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