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Robber and rapist top prison matriculants

A convicted robber serving a three-year jail term and a rapist serving an eight-year sentence were the top performers among inmates writing the 2014 matric exams.

The two 22-year olds from the Usethubeni Youth School in Durban-Westville were honoured by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha, who announced the prison matric results at Goodwood prison in Cape Town on Wednesday.

"In grade 12, the overall pass rate has increased from 58.8 in 2013 to 68.9 percent in 2014," Masutha said.

The number of prisoners sitting for the exams - both full-time and part-time pupils - in 2014 was 185.

"The department of correctional services has placed education and training at the centre of its rehabilitation agenda," said Masutha.

This was part of efforts to eliminate illiteracy, under-qualifications, and provide skills required for employment and self-employment.

The country currently had 14 full-time prison schools, compared to one in 2009.

The top performing school was the Emthonjeni Youth Centre in Baviaanspoort, Pretoria, with a 100 percent pass rate.

St Albans School in Port Elizabeth and the Umlalati Learning Centre in Barberton, Mpumalanga, shared second spot with an 83 percent pass rate.

The Usethubeni Youth School had the third-highest pass rate, and also boasted the two top achievers.

Njabulo Gumede was imprisoned in 2013 after being convicted of robbery in Pinetown. He completed his Grade 11 in 2013 - the year it became compulsory for every inmate without a qualification equivalent to Grade nine to complete adult education and training.

"I saw that I was sitting in jail without doing anything and I don't want to waste that three-year sentence," he said.

"I didn't think I was going to get this second chance of going to school, but when I came to jail I done the programmes, the restorative anger management and those programmes, they renew me and I saw that I would get the opportunity to go to school."

Gumede matriculated with a bachelor's pass, meaning he would qualify to study at any tertiary institution in the country.

"My wish is to go and study further for accountants, but I don't know if I'm going to have the financial programme because I don't think my parents are going to have that money. But I am waiting for any sponsor that can sponsor me for a bursary so I can go further my studies," he said.

Gumede passed with one A, four B's, one C and one D, and hopes his story will encourage other inmates to complete their matric.

"Life does not end when you are sentenced," Gumede said.

"When you get a chance to go outside and you are going to live a life with other people, if you are educated and you have a matric, it's going to be simpler."

Sbonelo Maphumulo, the inmate with the second-highest pass mark, is serving an eight-year jail term for rape.

"After I was arrested I was not much interested in school," he said.

"I was just doing nothing at all, but after I was apprehended I realise that school is very important so I have to be committed and patient and do whatever it takes to rebuild my life."

Maphumulo wants to further his studies, but says his parents cannot afford to pay for his studies.

"What I want to do is sports management in higher education so I think I get help and support from my family and maybe some people who can sponsor me financially," he said.

During the ceremony, Masutha announced that progress was made in setting up online services for inmates wanting to register with distance learning institutions.

Close to 1500 inmates registered with the University of SA (Unisa) between 2012 and 2014.

"The latest development in this regard is that we are busy concluding a partnership with Unisa to enable correctional centre students to have internet access," Masutha said.

"This will enable offenders to connect directly to Unisa online, and access all services available to their students anywhere."

The project will ensure that inmates have their own laptop. It is expected to be up and running by the 2015 academic year.

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