Prison Education in Botswana Through the Eyes of Ex-Inmates

Prison Education in Botswana Through the Eyes of Ex-Inmates

Kamogelo Lopang (Bobirwa Sub District Council, Botswana) and Idowu Biao (University of Botswana, Botswana)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2909-5.ch010


This chapter reports on a study completed in 2014. The study sought to find out the nature of education that the Botswana Prison Service dispenses and the utilitarian nature of the said education as regards the reintegration of ex-inmates back into society. The conduct of the study was guided by three research questions and Mezirow's (1997) transformative learning was used as theoretical framework. A qualitative design with a phenomenological paradigm was employed in the conduct of the study and twenty-two (22) ex-inmates of Botswana prisons participated in the study. It was found out that while ex-inmates valued the kindness of their facilitators and rated highly the education they received in prison, they were frustrated by the fact that neither government establishments nor the private sector were ready to employ them upon discharge. It was recommended that a more humane space should be created for the reintegration of ex-inmates who return into society.
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Botswana, initially referred to as Bechuanaland, attained political independence on 30 September, 1966. At independence, this landlocked country counted among the poorest countries on earth with “six kilometres of tarred roads, three secondary schools, six university graduates and a GDP per capita of US$70” (The Telegraph Reporter of 30 October, 2013 p.1). However, with the discovery of diamonds, proceeds from which have been judiciously managed, Botswana has become a success story both in Africa and the world.

Over the past half-century, political stability, good governance and prudent economic and natural resource management helped to secure robust economic growth, supported by the discovery of diamonds. Botswana is now an upper-middle income country, after being one of the poorest countries in Africa (The World Bank, 2017 para. 2).

Within the context of prison education, Botswana is a unique country on earth as it is one nation that put in place a prison education structure (albeit a rudimentary one) before it could develop its own first National Policy on Education. Its prison education program was initiated in 1968 (Letsatle, 2011; Ferguson-Brown, 1996) whereas Botswana’s first National Policy on Education was developed in 1977 (Republic of Botswana, 1977). Additionally, instead of following the trend that consists in militarizing the prison environment at the outset, Botswana started off by putting the Botswana Prison Service under the charge of the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs. Even though Botswana was adjudged one of the poorest nations on earth at independence (The World Bank, 2017), it managed to budget a whopping R84,000 for prison educational welfare and rehabilitation services within the National Development Plan 1968-73 (Ferguson-Brown, 1996). From this period onward, prison services in general and prison education in particular have been carried through, in apparent quietness and obscurity in Botswana as only a negligible number of studies had been conducted in this domain during the last many decades. For example, Frimpong (1995) who attempted to carry out a study of Botswana prison education submitted that there has not been any previous study of the subject undertaken in Botswana (p. 113)

Botswana started off by laying emphasis on the safe custody and security concept of prison service (Letsatle, 2011). This concept assumes that the offender is harmful and even dangerous both to society and to himself/herself. As such, s/he needs to be secluded from society and kept incommunicado using a place within which s/he may have the opportunity to reflect on his/her situation with the hope that s/he would ultimately positively transform from within (Omoni, & Ijeh, 2009). However, about a decade later, the Botswana Prison Service changed strategy and opted for the rehabilitation concept of prison services beginning from 1979 (Letsatle, 2011). This change of strategy resulted from the observation that, instead of reducing recidivism, the safe custody and security approach increased incidences of offenses beyond the first incarceration. The rehabilitation process of the Botswana Prison Service consists in offering psychosocial treatment and education and training opportunities to prison inmates.

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