The Malawi Prisons Service is currently holding an average of 17,638 inmates in its 31 establishments spread across the country against a holding capacity of 7,322. Out of this population only an average of 1,620 are enrolled in education programmes. This situation is in conflict with the Sustainable Development Goal number 4 which calls for inclusivity in education with the aim of leaving no one behind.
The Malawi Constitution states that “all persons are entitled to education.” This provision in the Malawi Constitution recognises the essential role that education plays in the development of individuals, communities, and of society as a whole. These two key documents affirm that no group should be implicitly or explicitly excluded from receiving an education, including those in conflict with the law.
Considering the minimal access to education for people in detention, in 2020, DVV International entered into a partnership agreement with the Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) to implement a project namely; Prison Education Project (PEP).
DVV International is the Institute for International Cooperation of the Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband e.V. (DVV), the German Adult Education Association. DVV represents the interests of approximately 920 adult education centres (Volkshochschulen) and their state associations, the largest service provider of continuing education in Germany. As the leading professional organisation in the field of adult education and development cooperation, DVV International has committed itself to supporting lifelong learning for over 50 years. DVV International provides worldwide support for the establishment and development of sustainable structures for a lifelong Adult Learning and Education (ALE). In Malawi, DVV is piloting various projects which are aimed at improving and scaling up adult education services through cross-sector delivery of ALE.
CHREAA is a registered non-governmental organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in Malawi. CHREAA seeks to ensure that the rights of all prisoners and other vulnerable groups are advanced through access to justice. CHREAA advocates for the improvement of prisons conditions, prisons decongestion and reformation of inmates.
The project aims at providing education to prisoners through tailor made vocational skills programs which include tailoring, carpentry and barbering. The project targets 40 inmates per year, who meet any of the following requirements; have interest in pursuing vocational skills training, are able to read and write, serving minor offences and are close to finishing their sentences. The project is being implemented at Zomba Prison.
The project provides education to inmates through tailor made vocational skills programs which include tailoring, carpentry and barbering. This contributes to prisoners reformation and capacity building of the inmates so that they can intergrate easily in the society after their prison life.
2.2 Psychosocial Counselling
The project also provides psychosocial counselling to inmates. Psychosocial counselling is an important aspect of the rehabilitation process for inmates. The Counselling Sessions promote mental health, addresses underlying issues, helps the inmates to understand and cope with them and facilitates reintegration after their release. While the inmates undergo counselling, the project further capacitate prison personnel on mental helath. The prison officers are trained on mental health to support inmates with mental health issues, provide care and support rehabilitation efforts.
CHREAA/DVV are also lobbying the government to allow MPS make their own uniforms other than contracting other companies. MPS is capable of sewing good quality uniforms for inmates and its officers. This is part of the project’s sustainability as well as a way of building the capacity of the MPS department to be generating resources on their own so as to complement the allocation from central government.
2.4 Project Progress- Graduations
The first cohort (2021) enrolled a total of 40 inmates. Of these, 28 inmates pursuing Barbering, Carpentry or Tailoring graduated in December, 2021.
The second cohort (2022) enrolled a total of 40 inmates. And today 25 inmates who were pursuing Barbering,Carpentry and Tailroing are graduating.
The project is funded by DVV International and total cost of the project is 78.5 Million Kwacha (2019-2022).