Daily Dispatch - - Front Page - Jon­athan Jansen

The pass-mark for those in jail writ­ing Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate ex­am­i­na­tions was 77.3%, ex­plains Jon­athan Jansen

It is true. There are 183 in­mates from 13 schools ready to write the 2019 Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate ex­am­i­na­tions. These pris­on­ers set the bar high. Oops, wrong word. They are be­hind bars.

But you know what I mean – these are smart in­mates. The pass mark for crim­i­nals was 77.3% in 2018 – that’s higher than the av­er­age pass rate for four of the nine prov­inces among those who re­main un­cap­tured.

Per­haps this is the so­lu­tion to the low pass rates in South African schools. Lock up the kids. Wait, be­fore you dis­miss the idea, think of the many ad­van­tages.

There would be lit­tle by way of dis­trac­tion, like com­puter games or mo­bile phones or 24hour tele­vi­sion.

It is hard to lose a book taken from the prison li­brary and your card surely can­not ex­pire be­fore you do un­less a tat­tooed chap called Spyker gets to you first.

Still, there’s an up­side to send­ing your child to prison school. As a par­ent you don’t have to pack lunch; free meals are your por­tion.

Who bet­ter to mark your scripts than an of­fi­cial from a depart­ment that sounds like “cor­rec­tions”?

Un­like the sit­u­a­tion in many of our dys­func­tional schools, your tu­tors show up, even if it is a prison guard dou­bling as a math­e­mat­ics in­struc­tor.

Maths. These in­mates should be good at the sub­ject. I mean, they all be­long to a set of numbers – the 26s, the 27s and the 28s.

I lost track of which num­ber gang does what, but some do com­merce, oth­ers do sex, and the third does, gulp, mur­der; which is how many of them got there in the first place.

In any case, maths is about numbers and I would give the hood­lums as pre­scribed work Johnny Stein­berg’s fright­en­ing book called, you guessed it, The Num­ber.

In prison classes you can kill two birds with one stone. Okay, kill is a bad choice of words in this in­stance.

What I mean is you can drill in­mates for the fi­nal ex­ams in life sciences even as you pre­pare them for life on the out­side through life ori­en­ta­tion.

Which raises an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion for me as a for­mer bi­ol­ogy teacher – how do you do lab­o­ra­tory dis­sec­tions with a group of in­mates?

The “bio teacher” could so eas­ily be mis­un­der­stood by in­struct­ing the stu­dent in­mates to pro­ceed with a kid­ney dis­sec­tion. You can imag­ine a slow learner im­me­di­ately digging into a class­mate’s back with the scalpel be­fore be­com­ing aware of the sheep kid­neys on the tray be­side them.

The life of a pris­oner is cruel. Imag­ine tak­ing ge­og­ra­phy and be­ing shown maps of the world that take you to far­away places but you’re a lifer, sen­tenced to spend the rest of your days in jail. That is not fair.

Ev­ery sub­ject has its haz­ards in prison, but there is good news.

The depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion re­cently made the up­lift­ing an­nounce­ment that there would be an exit level cer­tifi­cate in grade 9.

Ev­ery pris­oner should seize this once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity – you can “exit” the sys­tem with a stamped piece of pa­per and trans­fer to ei­ther a tech­ni­cal or vo­ca­tional col­lege and leave the sti­fling in­sti­tu­tion that now en­traps you. You do not need a French in­tel­lec­tual called Michel Fou­cault to grasp his rhetor­i­cal ques­tion: “Is it sur­pris­ing that pris­ons re­sem­ble … schools … which all re­sem­ble pris­ons?”

In school, as in prison, you are kept in­doors for most of the time but al­lowed to go out­side for some sun­shine once or twice a day. The stu­dents are ac­tu­ally in­car­cer­ated be­cause they can­not just come and go as they please.

In both in­sti­tu­tions you have to wear the same uni­form as the other in­mates or you’re in se­ri­ous trou­ble. You dare not talk while the war­dens are present. You must walk and line up to en­ter or leave your cel­lu­lar class­room. Your hair must com­ply with reg­u­la­tions. There are bul­lies who can hurt you in both in­sti­tu­tions. And dis­obe­di­ence is pun­ished.

Like prison, you can be re­leased but re­turned for mak­ing the same mis­takes. It’s called by a fancy name: re­cidi­vism.

The data for schools are un­flat­ter­ing. Of the 78,363 “pro­gressed stu­dents” (pro­moted from grade 11 even though they failed) only 8% passed the NSC de­spite a sec­ond chance.

The rates of re­cidi­vism for prison in­mates are also very high. Reports claim that 50% to 70% of pris­on­ers return within three years, but here’s the good news: ed­u­ca­tion re­duces the rate of re­cidi­vism by 29%, says re­searcher Michael Kh­wela from the Uni­ver­sity of Lim­popo.

One thing is clear, as long as there are hu­mans there will be pris­ons and schools.

Do­ing school while in prison is not, how­ever, two dif­fer­ent hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties.

It’s the same thing with one dif­fer­ence – if you are locked up your chances of high marks are much bet­ter than for kids in Lim­popo or the East­ern Cape.

In­mates should be good at maths – they all be­long to a set of numbers...

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