Ed­u­ca­tion: The ‘Key’ to Borde­lais

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kerwin Cae­sar

Borde­lais is more than just a prison. The fa­cil­ity does not seek to serve solely as a con­fine­ment for crim­i­nals, but also to aid its in­mates in ob­tain­ing a cer­tain level of per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, with op­por­tu­ni­ties such as its ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram.

I vis­ited the prison, this time to li­aise with a few of the in­mates who in May 2014 suc­cess­fully sat the CXC (Caribbean Ex­am­i­na­tions Coun­cil) ex­am­i­na­tions. This year marks the fifth con­sec­u­tive year in which in­mates have been af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to write the exams, with the ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram be­ing in ex­is­tence for the past seven to eight years. I wanted to get a proper un­der­stand­ing of the Borde­lais ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. Mr. Lawrence Con­stan­tine, Ed­u­ca­tion Man­ager of the prisons, gave me a run­down of the op­er­a­tions.

“The sys­tem caters for two dis­tinct sets of in­mates: those who have at­tended sec­ondary school and those who have not, and so our pro­gram has a ba­sic and ad­vanced com­po­nent. We are ba­si­cally fol­low­ing the same cur­ric­ula as in the pub­lic school sys­tem geared to­wards CXC, so we clas­sify peo­ple as be­ing sec­ondary level or CXC level and ba­sic level. For our ba­sic level stu­dents, we follow the NELP pro­gram which is the min­istry’s adult part of it. And of course the in­mates have the op­por­tu­nity to move up un­til they get to the CXC level, pro­vid­ing that they have the time to do so (de­pend­ing on the sta­tus of their case). They write the NELP exams as well, they get their cer­tifi­cates here and re­ceive them on their way out,” ex­plained Con­stan­tine.

The fa­cil­ity is geared to cater­ing to both sentenced in­mates as well as those await­ing trial, and en­rolling in the ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram is vol­un­tary.

“At the sec­ondary level we have what you call a preCXC level and the CXC level. At the pre-CXC level we be­gin to groom them for CXC, so they would spend a year in that pro­gram, then those who are ‘ready’ would move up and are pre­pared for CXC. For So­cial Stud­ies and Prin­ci­ples of Business (POB) we give them a year at the CXC level. Last year we didn’t al­low them to write Math and English but let them go through two years of work be­cause th­ese are gen­er­ally more chal­leng­ing. So we ex­per­i­mented with two years of English and Math­e­mat­ics and it did pay off. We have also of­fered EDPM in the past but our equip­ment and fa­cil­i­ties are limited.”

Con­stan­tine ex­plains that the pro­gram has grown beyond ex­pec­ta­tions over the years due to the level of per­for­mances pro­duced by the in­mates.

“At first, our man­date was ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion but when we started and we as­sessed the progress and we looked at the qual­ity of in­mates, we de­cided to push to have the in­mates write CXC. We have also been fid­dling with ter­tiary cour­ses at the Sir Arthur Lewis Com­mu­nity Col­lege, or even dis­tant learn­ing cour­ses but then again it all comes down to the type of fa­cil­i­ties we have. But we cer­tainly have folks here who are more than ca­pa­ble of go­ing be­ing the CXC level,” Con­stan­tine con­cluded.

This year 15 in­mates sat the CXC, to­tal­ing a sum of 26 ex­am­i­na­tions, man­ag­ing 23 passes and three fail­ures, and record­ing an over­all av­er­age of 87%. Last year over 70 in­mates en­rolled in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and this fig­ure has grown sig­nif­i­cantly to 107 en­roll­ments for 2014/2015.

I was hop­ing to have a one-on-one with the top per­former at the ex­am­i­na­tions but Mr. Con­stan­tine gave me the priv­i­lege of in­ter­view­ing five of the as­pir­ing in­mates.

Th­ese men in­clude Sa­muel “Sammy” Ed­mund, 24, of Pier­rot, Vieux Fort who ob­tained a grade one in Math­e­mat­ics, two in So­cial Stud­ies and P.O.B and a three in English A.

Moses Fran­cis Leon, 56, ob­tained grade twos in So­cial Stud­ies and Prin­ci­ples of Business.

Vern Henry, 29, ob­tained a dis­tinc­tion in English A and a two in So­cial Stud­ies.

Kurt Oculien, 25, of the Mabouya Val­ley, Den­nery ob­tained a dis­tinc­tion in Math­e­mat­ics and a two in So­cial Stud­ies.

Jonathan “Ninja Dan” St. Rose, 35, of Marc­hand, Castries ob­tained a grade one in P.O.B and a two in So­cial Stud­ies.

The in­ter­views with th­ese gen­tle­men were each very in­ter­est­ing in their own way, some filled with eye-open­ers but each with their dis­tinct les­son. Here’s a gen­eral out­look on the in­di­vid­u­als: of the five in­ter­vie­wees, sur­pris­ingly ev­ery one of them at­tended a sec­ondary school with only one be­ing un­able to sit the CXC ex­am­i­na­tions due to fi­nan­cial prob­lems. What did not come as a sur­prise, was that three out of the five men had not prop­erly con­sid­ered their life goals and as­pi­ra­tions.

In terms of crimes com­mit­ted, the of­fenses tagged to the ac­cused range from armed rob­bery, to pos­ses­sion of firearms and am­mu­ni­tion, to griev­ous harm and at­tempted mur­der. Of th­ese five in­mates, only one has been con­victed with the other four lan­guish­ing on re­mand.

It is said that ex­pe­ri­ence brings forth wis­dom, and be­ing locked up in a cell def­i­nitely leads even the hard­est of crim­i­nals into con­tem­pla­tion. All of the in­mates con­fess that be­ing in­car­cer­ated forced them into re­flec­tion and led them to ac­cept­ing the ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram as a sec­ond chance and a golden op­por­tu­nity to ob­tain sub­jects which they had not passed or stud­ied be­fore. They all have made read­ing a part of their lives.

The best of luck to you, gen­tle­men!

Borde­lais Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity: An un­likely learn­ing in­sti­tu­tion.

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