Convicts learn their ABC in KZN

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

A 77-year-old rapist was among 200 inmates who "graduated" after a 20-week literacy project at the Qalalakabusha Prison at Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal north coast.

The prisoners graduated after learning how to read, write and count.

Sindizwe Buthelezi said he never thought he would ever be able to read or write.

He never went to school and could not even write his name, let alone count loose cash.

Buthelezi is one of the first graduates of the Masifundisane project - an initiative by the provincial departments of Education and Correctional Services.

Buthelezi is serving a life sentence for the rape of a neighbour's child. Illiteracy figures in the province are on the decrease and current statistics indicate there are still about 1,2million who cannot read or write - down from those in previous years.

Handing the certificates to the successful candidates, MEC for Education, Ina Cronje said through programmes such as Masifundisane, the rate of illiteracy in the province could decrease. Cronje urged prisoners to take advantage of the opportunities saying there were many initiatives to help them improve their skills.

"Now that you can read and write, you must explore opportunities such as skills development, for when you leave here."

The department is driving the province's goal to declare the region a "territory free of illiteracy" by 2009.