Inmate learners from Barberton Management Area, Limpopo/Mpumalanga/North West (LMN) Region, are back to school in numbers, after spending almost three months out of the classroom due to the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
With the country having moved to Lockdown Level 3, on 1 June 2020, and the easing of restrictions, the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, announced the staggered resumption of academic activities, starting with grades 7 and 12 learners.
Schools re-opened on 8 June 2020, and the first day at Barberton was successful as all educators reported for work and inmates completing grade 12 came out in in numbers to resume classes.
The stage is set for learning and teaching at Barberton. Inside classrooms, learners sit more than one metre apart to maintain social distance and wear their cloth face masks throughout. They are sanitised appropriately as they enter the school premises, and when they leave.
The management area ensured that all schools were decontaminated prior to reopening. Water dispensers were placed at the entrance points of all classrooms, with soap for offenders and teachers to wash their hands.
Barberton Management Area has two formal schools renowned for producing quality matric results, having achieved an overall grade 12 performance of 86% during 2019. The schools are Vuselela Learning Centre at Maximum Correctional Centre and Umlalati Learning Centre at Town Youth Correctional Centre. Some of the programmes offered at these schools include adult education and training (AET), high school and technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Vuselela Learning Centre has 17 learners, with eight (8) inmates registered for matric this year.
The Head of Town Youth Correctional Centre, Mr Noah Nkosi indicated that before offenders leave their cells for school, they are screened thoroughly to make sure that those with symptoms are isolated. “We are adherent to the Covid-19 regulations, and make sure that offenders and officials are screened before learning and teaching commences. We also check their temperature and symptoms, and those with a high temperature or displaying any symptoms are isolated,” said Nkosi.
Musa Mdluli (23), an offender at Town Youth Correctional Centre, serving a life sentence indicated that he is excited to be back at school as this affords him an opportunity to finish his matric. “I have been longing to complete matric as I came here with grade 11. When I heard that schools were closed indefinitely, my dreams started to fade but I am excited that I will complete my matric and further my studies as I intend to enrol for my LLB degree next year”.
Surprise Phoku (24), who is serving 10 years for robbery, appreciated the manner in which the centre is adhering to the Covid-19 requirements. “Officials in this centre are dedicated when it comes to dealing with this pandemic, they screen us regularly and ensure that social distance is maintained at all times,” Phoku said.
Barberton Management Area has not yet recorded a confirmed coronavirus case.