IMAGINE being locked up in prison for a crime you did not commit. Try waking up to 10 years in squalid and stinking confinement with probably a hundred dangerous people; robbers, thugs, murderers, name them. Not exactly the kind of life we would want for ourselves or the people we love and care for.
Circumstantial children (children born to mothers locked up in prison) wake up to such realities every day and worse still, have no formal education to give them a kick-start to a brighter future.
Fortunately one organisation bringing hope to these children is the Prisons Care and Counselling Association (PRISCCA). The association, aimed at helping prisoners' welfare, has built what can be termed as the first-ever school for circumstantial children at Mwembeshi open air prison.
In an interview with the Education Post, PRISCCA executive director Godfrey Malembeka said the school will cater for children born and raised in prison as a result of their mother's incarceration.
"Government does not fully provide for a child born in prison and PRISCCA has come in to build a school at Mwembeshi with the help from cooperating partners so that our children in prison have access to education," Malembeka said.
Malembeka, who is a former prisoner, urged the government to formalise the education system in prison so that circumstantial children can also receive education.
"As the situation stands, education in prisons is not formalised and the number of children who cannot be separated from their mothers in custody continues to grow, and are made to languish in prison for a long time without doing anything," he said.
He said his organisation was in the process of identifying incarcerated teachers and qualified volunteers to help run the project.
"In the next five years we hope to open schools at all the provincial prisons dotted across the country. We have received a boost of K18 million from the Canadian Foundation to complete the Mwembeshi School which is currently at roof level," Malembeka said.
He said a nursery school was also underway at Lusaka Central Prison to cater for children there.
"The funds are ready to finish the nursery school at Lusaka Central Prison, all we are waiting for is for the authorities at the Ministry of Home affairs to finalise the paper work," Malembeka revealed.
And Lydia Mutale, a teacher in Mkushi, expressed happiness that the establishment of the school was underway saying it will greatly benefit children languishing in prison.
"Education is vital for children, children need to be taught basics at an early age," Mutale said.
She added that educating children would act as the answer to proper re-integration into society for them.
"The sad thing is that some children are too young and cannot be detached from their mothers. In most instances no one from the outside world is willing to take care of these children, hence teaching them with their mothers will greatly be beneficial," she said.
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