Seven inmates of the Port Harcourt Maximum Correctional Centre, Rivers State, have received certificates following their graduation from the National Open University of Nigeria.
Two of them graduated with second-class upper degrees while the remaining five had second-class lower degrees.
The inmates were part of those who graduated in the 2021/2022 academic session in March 2022 but could not join their colleagues for convocation due to incarceration, PUNCH reports.
The Registrar of the school, Felix Edoka, who handed certificates to the inmates at the correctional centre located along Dockyard Road in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, said the university programmes are free for inmates.
He said, “Today we are handing over certificates to seven inmates who have graduated from the National Open University of Nigeria.
“Among this number, we have two inmates that made Second Class Upper. The remaining five made Second Class Lower.
“We want to use this opportunity to appeal to those in incarceration that are yet to fill out our forms to do so. The purpose of getting the university to the correctional centre is to ensure that we provide opportunities for those who want to develop themselves.
“So that by the time you get out of this place, hopefully, there will be no difference between you and those outside. To make this possible, the university is granting this education to you people (inmates) free of charge.”
Earlier, Deputy Controller of Corrections in charge of Port Harcourt Maximum Correctional Centre, Etim Effiong, commended the school for bringing university education to the facility, saying inmates should not be denied the chance to pursue their educational cream because of their incarceration.
“Your being here is not a barrier. You can be in a facility like ours, you can be in confinement and pursue your educational goals even to doctorate degree levels.
“Not only has NOUN brought this to us here, they facilitate and encourage us and provide all the equipment needed for this to be achieved,” he said.
The deputy controller said preferences are being given to inmates who are studying, saying, “I have ordered that those who are in schools should be opened early. I have given them special privileges, including meals.”
Benson Luck, Deputy Controller of Corrections in charge of human resources, advised against stigmatising ex-convicts.
According to Luck, ex-convicts should be encouraged to acquire the skills needed to reintegrate into society and given support to make contributions.
He said, “Incarceration is not to deny you of the opportunity to be educated. When they are discharged eventually, it is still our duty to reintegrate them into society.
“If they have acquired this education and you stigmatise them, there is every tendency that they will draw back.
“They will not give out all that is in them. So, I want to pray all of us gathered here to encourage them even within here and outside this place so that the education they have acquired will actually be beneficial to you and me.”