Jailbirds gear up to write matric

Sizwe Sibiya

Nineteen inmates in Durban’s Westville Prison will be writing the upcoming matric exams.

While thousands of Grade 12 learners in South Africa are preparing for their exams and recovering time lost to Covid-19, the inmates say they have been ready since the beginning of October and now they are just revising.

Twenty-five year-old Nhlakanipho Mbatha from Clermont told Scrolla.Africa that learning in prison hasn’t been easy.

“Many people believe that when you are doing your studies in prison everything is smooth. But that is not true. We also encounter challenges.

“The people you are locked up with in your cell cannot be controlled. There are also guards who are not supportive of us learning. But some support us with everything we need to learn,” said Nhlakanipho, adding that through all the challenges he still managed to pass Grade 11 last year. 

He was sentenced to 14 years behind bars for hijacking a van with a friend in New Germany. He said he cannot wait to get out after serving half of his sentence in 2025.

“I have never been outside since I was arrested in 2016. So when I get out I want to teach other young people easy methods of learning maths.

“We grew up thinking mathematics is for certain individuals but that is not true and that is what I am hoping to teach other black youth,” said Nhlakanipho, adding that when he passes matric, he is going to further his studies in mathematics until he has a doctorate.

Principal of the prison’s Usethubeni Youth School, Nelly Mkhize said they have been getting a 100% matric pass rate with distinctions in Westville for the past five years and they are confident they will get 100% from this year’s matric learners.

About 34 inmates will be writing their matric exams in KwaZulu-Natal correctional services on 15 November.