Young former prisoners show academic mettle
Peer pressure, frustration or simply making "a mistake" in the heat of the moment has cost thousands of young people their freedom, but some have shown real determination to rise above the odds and see hope beyond the prison walls.
George Makgato, 25, of Mapetla, Soweto, an accounting science graduate, has just finished serving a five-year sentence for attempted murder and possession of a firearm.
"I started studying when I arrived in prison because I believe I can still do something good with my life," he said.
"I was imprisoned in 2008. I have served my sentence and was granted parole in June. Since then I have been sending out applications to accounting firms for graduate programmes and, yes, I do have hope that I will get a job," he said.
Makgato, who got 13 distinctions, admits he made a mistake, but through the support of his elder brother, Felix, he was motivated to get his life back on track.
"The greatest glory in life is not in never falling, but getting up every time."
These were some of the words of inspiration that Professor Sipho Seepe shared with Makgato and the 106 inmates who graduated at Leeuwkop Prison yesterday. The inmates graduated in various courses - ranging from national certificates to degrees, all of which were completed via correspondence.
Among others who were inspired by Seepe's motivational words was Bongani Tshabalala, 26, who said: "I can work as a receptionist, or even at better jobs that require computer knowledge. I am planning to do a Information Technology Diploma when I am released in March. I do not think a criminal record will hinder me. I have seen others leave prison and get jobs."
Sowetan also spoke to William Mamabolo, who was 31-years-old when he murdered his wife. He was jailed in 2006 and is serving a 15-year sentence.
Since his incarceration he has completed a BCom in Industrial and Organisational Psychology, N6 level in Civil Engineering, a Human Resources and a Preaching certificate. He said he had been a teacher for 11 years when "frustration and confusion" led him to murder.
" I don't think a criminal record will stop me. Without hope one cannot live for even five minutes," said Mamabolo, adding that he regretted his actions.
Sowetan spoke to several graduates who all said support from their families was instrumental in their achievements . Inmates need people outside to register and pay fees on their behalf.