News / South Africa / Education

Richard Nkosi
2 minute read
10 Jan 2019
9:10 am

Oldest inmate to write matric raises the bar

Richard Nkosi

Abdullah Elijah Simelane was not only the oldest, but he also passed all his subjects with flying colours.

Abdullah Elijah Simelane.

Mpumalanga inmate Abdullah Elijah Simelane, 52, was not only the oldest of the 235 inmates countrywide who wrote their matric last year, but he also passed with flying colours, reports Lowvelder.

Simelane is serving a 23-year jail term for rape at Barberton Department of Correctional Services (DCS) maximum correctional centre.

He was sentenced in 2015. His school, Vuselela Learning Centre, achieved a 92.3% pass rate. A total of 13 inmates wrote their matric last year, with only one failing.

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Umlalati Learning Centre, which catered to juvenile inmates, achieved a pass rate of 90%. Ten students sat for their examinations, nine of whom passed.

Simelane said he hoped having achieved his matric would open doors for him.

The father of two said being incarcerated had given him time to see things differently and realise the value of education.

“If I had an opportunity to study back then, I don’t think I would have committed this crime. I dropped out of school as a teenager, a choice that was out of my hands. Things were really tough for me. My family could not afford to pay for my school fees and other things I needed and I saw dropping out as the only option,” he said.

Simelane said he hoped to get funding so that he could continue furthering his education. His dream is to enrol for a degree in political science.

Inmates serving in South African correctional facilities countrywide scored a 77.3% matric pass rate for the 2018 academic year, which is 2% lower than the national average. The result is also an increase on last year’s 76.7%.

“My results are good, but I expected to do much better than this. I would not have done it without the support of the department. The officials encourage us to study so that we can come out of prison as better people,” Simelane said.

He achieved 74% in siSwati home language, 73% for English first additional language and life orientation, 52% for mathematical literacy, 75% for business studies, 67% for geography, and 72% for tourism.

DCS spokesperson Mesiah Hlungwani said the department of correctional services also worked with the department of basic education to offer extra classes, and strived to create the best suitable environment for learning and teaching for inmates.

In a press statement, the minister of justice and correctional services, Michael Masutha, said education was a critical component of the rehabilitation measures of any correctional system.

“It has also been proven that inmates who participate in educational programmes see the future differently, as they develop a more positive outlook. The DCS will continue to do the best it can to ensure that as many inmates as possible are able to access education to enable them to lead lives as productive and socially responsible members of their communities upon their release,” Masutha said.

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