File picture: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - South African prisoners are being given, through a collaboration between the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and the National Skills Fund (NSF), a chance to acquire skills suitable for a life without crime.

This was through a programme agreed to in 2012 between the DCS and NSF which also saw a number of Higher Education and Training entities join in a bid to help prisoners turn around their lives.

“The goal of the project is to provide offenders with access to occupationally-directed skills programmes that would lead to the acquisition of skills needed in the labour market,” said Higher Education and Training's Busiswa Nongogo.

“This would create access to employment opportunities and entrepreneurship within various sectors.”

Funding for the programme came from NSF while a group of the Sector Education and Training Authority's (Setas) contributed. Combined, they contributed R66.4 million which translated into 6 416 offenders being upskilled.

Setas involved included the Agriculture Education and Training Authority; Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority; and the Construction Education and Training Authority (Ceta).

“The programmes ranged from building and plastering, tiling, plumbing, painting, electrical, welding, vehicle maintenance and repairs to vegetable production, chef assistant and computer skills,” said Nongogo.

Wrapping up the 2014/15 financial year, Nongogo said some of the highlights of the programme included all participants being trained in accredited programmes, that 98,3 percent of participants were Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDI), that 7,2 percent were female offenders and and 60,7 percent youth.

“Skills development is a critical component of the offender rehabilitation strategy within DCS,” said Nongogo.

Nongogo added that through the partnership and programme, the beneficiaries would not only better their chances of finding employment once their time was served in prison, but would also ensure they would be able to access further education and training development at higher institutions such as universities, universities of technology and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges.

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