OPEN SCHOOLING in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) which is a module in the second phase of the President's Special Initiative on Distance Learning (PSI-DL) has hit the Kumasi Central Prisons.
The initiative, which begun on pilot basis in September last year, is aimed at equipping about 1,000 needy and vulnerable students at the pre-tertiary level with requisite vocational and technical skills to be able to set up their own businesses, work in establishments and also move on to acquire skills at the tertiary level.
The initiative, which has selected programmes like Block Laying and Concreting, Catering, Basic English and Mathematics, is being run in 12 study centres made up of public and private vocational and technical institutions nationwide.
50 needy and vulnerable students above age 15 are expected to be selected for each course in the participating institutions.
The institutions are the Bolgatanga Technical Institute, Tamale Polytechnic, St. Clare Vocational Training Centre at Tumu, St.
Basilides Vocational/Technical Institute at Kaleo, Ramseyer Technical Institute in Kumasi, Christian IPS at Kukurantumi in the Eastern Region and Nsawam Medium Prisons.
The rest are Comboni Vocational Technical Institute in Sogakope, Sunyani Polytechnic, Y.M.C.A. Vocational School in Takoradi, Takoradi Technical Institute and Biriwa Vocational Training Centre in the Central Region.
In the implementation of the initiative, each institution offering both Block Laying and Concreting/Catering is supported with GH¢23,350.90 while those offering only Block Laying and Catering are assisted with a financial package of GH¢9,074.40.
Institutions under the initiative pursuing only catering are financially aided with GH¢14,996.50.
The financial support is intended for acquiring equipments, tools and consumables, the payment of allowances to facilitators of the programme and the usage of facilities and utilities.
Launching the prison's category of the initiative at the Kumasi Central Prisons on Thursday, the coordinator of PSI-DL, Mrs. Abena Agyakoma Kwarteng, said she was encouraged to initiate the programme in the country's prisons following a conference she attended in Jamaica in November, 2006 where the success story of Guyana, where prison inmates were systematically being trained in technical and vocational education, was told.
She emphasized that the initiative, which is the very first of its kind in West Africa and started as pilot project in the Nsawam Medium Security Prisons, has so far been successfully replicated in both Tamale and Wa prisons.
According to the coordinator, the government is very much committed to ensuring that the programme was duplicated in all prison centres in the country to grant inmates the golden opportunity to mend their broken lives by acquiring technical and vocational skills that could add value to their lives when they were reintegrated back into society.
Mrs. Kwarteng, who presented learning materials which included DVDs, VCDs, books and a television set valued at GH¢4,000, urged the 50 selected beneficiaries, who comprised both male and female inmates to take the programme seriously and make the very best of it.
She also entreated selected prison officers, who are to undergo training to shepherd the programme, to give of their best in ensuring that the initiative runs efficiently and effectively.
The coordinator, who assured the beneficiaries that tools and equipments needed for the programme would soon arrive, also promised that some undisclosed allowances would be given monthly to the trained course masters.
The regional director of prisons, Deputy Director of Prisons (DDP) A.I. Salifu who received the learning materials on behalf of the inmates, thanked the initiators of the programme for considering the Kumasi Central Prisons as a centre.
He pledged that he would personally get involved to ensure that the programme runs successfully to guarantee its sustainability.
DDP Salifu however appealed to the initiators of the programme and other stakeholders of education to construct a learning centre for the inmates in the prison yard to encourage effective teaching and learning.
He said, currently, inmates have no place of learning therefore they were compelled to use their place of worship for studying purposes.
Mr. Cornelius Soglo, an inmate who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, was grateful for the learning opportunity offered them.
The inmate, who was convicted in 2005 for defilement, said there were a lot of fine brains in prison who were looking for an opportunity to study to improve their lot.
Mr. Soglo, who is believed to be in his thirties and highly determined to emulate the prisoner in Tanzania who had a degree in law while serving his sentence, appealed to the government to provide a serene atmosphere in prisons to propel inmates to study to the optimum level.
Mrs. Kwarteng disclosed that the first phase of the PSI-DL which begun in April 2002 was successfully completed in December 2006.
She said the first phase targeted students at both the Junior High School and Senior High School Levels with special attention on the teaching of English, Mathematics and Science.
From Morgan Owusu, Kumasi