The Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) has been awarded the 2018 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy for the ‘National Open University of Nigeria - Prison Study Centres and Inmates General Education Programme’.
In March 2018, the NPS had placed inmates including adults, young men and women in 240 correctional homes. All of the NPS custodial correctional centres offered literacy courses and technical education and vocational training (TVET) for inmates. Successful enrolments by inmates have been growing remarkably.
“In July 2018, there were 73,631 inmates representing juveniles, adult males and females in our prisons and Juvenile Offenders home,” says Esther Omolara Ojeah, the Deputy Controller at the Nigerian Prisons Service.
“About 70% of these young offenders were lacking basic, primary education. Only approximately 20% of Adult females inmates had completed secondary or certified TVET programmes, and only approximately 20% of adult males and females had university or tertiary Education.
The NPS began its operations in 1961 with the mission to establish a prison service that seeks lasting change in attitudes, values and behaviours of the inmates as part of their preparation for reinsertion in society.
NPS equips prisoners with skills and professions that can make them easily employable or self-employed upon release.
“To those whose circumstances lead them to prisons, all hope should not be lost. Nigerian prisons are focused as places for corrections and rehabilitation,” says Ms Omolara Ojeah. “We are committed to improving and creating a more conducive environment for discipline, study and skills.”
The education programme consist of five modules that combine lectures and practical trainings. Nigerian Prisons Lifelong Education learning is conducted through literacy classes in English and national languages. They incorporate practical skills development through workshops, farm centres, and other training sessions.
The courses are taught through the National Open University of Nigeria - Prison Study Centres, which guides undergraduate inmates to the level of PhD, while Yelwa College of Education offers Teaching Diplomas. The NPS tutors and volunteers are running the primary and secondary education courses, literacy and vocational trainings.
“The World is recognizing our humble effort in our challenging environment. We are seeing the UNESCO Literacy Prize as a certificate of endorsement for our governments, national, global educational partners to render more support to our literacy and TVET education in correcting inmates for a safer, better Nigeria.”
Next year, the Nigerian Prisons Service plans to expand literacy and TVET lifelong learning, across all 240 Nigerian Prisons, as well as to prisons in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia and other ECOWAS countries.
This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay on the occasion of International Literacy Day, which is celebrated on 8 September. The Prize Award Ceremony will take place at the global event for International Literacy Day on 7 September at UNESCO Headquarters. This year’s International Literacy Prizes and the global event have as theme ‘literacy and skills development’.