Prison walls no barrier for top inmate matriculant

PREMIUM

Instead of scouting for a university campus that would hold the key to an education and his future, Nhlakanipho Mpofana is plotting the course of his life from inside an acrid prison cell.
His cramped confines – behind the looming walls of Durban’s Westville prison – are a far cry from the lush hills of his family home on the outskirts of Port Shepstone on the KZN south coast.
“When I was convicted my family gave up on me ... they thought it was the end of my life,” he said, thumbing a jailhouse tattoo scrawled on his forearm.
“They did not pay much attention to the fact that I was learning in prison.”
But in the overcrowded prison, fenced in by barbed wire and spikes, while serving an eight-year sentence for attempted murder, the 21-year-old would change his life’s tack.
Securing four distinctions is a quiet personal coup that makes him the country’s top-achieving jailed matriculant.
Mpofana had been buoyed by the performance of his brother, Samkelo, who had just one year prior also taken the title of best-performing incarcerated matriculant with five distinctions.
It was the same drunken brawl that landed them both behind bars, serving time for attempted murder.
“We got embroiled in a fight with someone and we beat him. The case was first ruled as an assault but later ended up being one of attempted murder because he was seriously injured,” he said.
“Last year we chose to write a letter which was taken to him by my brother and he accepted our apology,” Mpofana added.
With distinctions in life orientation, history, tourism and IsiZulu, Mpofana said he had spurned gang life behind bars and instead fostered dreams of becoming a teacher.
“I was expecting these results but I am not satisfied with them. I am considering a re-mark because I am not satisfied with my marks in maths and geography.”
“I want to study teaching because I would like to play a role in turning around other people’s lives and to guide our youth against making the mistakes that we did ... you can see this place is full of young men,” he said.
Inmates serving in SA correctional facilities scored a 77.3% matric pass rate for the 2018 academic year, which is two percentage points lower than the 79.42% national average. The result however is an increase on last year’s 76.7% pass rate.
Four DCS schools in the Durban Westville, Cradock, Baviaanspoort and Rustenburg correctional centres achieved a 100% pass rate.
“This is a third uninterrupted 100% pass for Usethubeni School in Durban Westville. A total of 28 distinctions were recorded at the school,” the department said...

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