When he sat his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination at Kodiaga Prison in Kisumu, Mr Aggrey Ondego’s mind was more on the certificate than the grade.
The 36-year-old was among the best-performing students from prison in the country in last year’s KCSE examination after scoring a mean grade of B minus. He hopes to pursue a degree in business management. And now Mr Ondego is looking forward to transferring from Kodiaga Prison in Kisumu to Kamiti for higher education.
Senior Assistant Commissioner of Prisons Dickson Mwakazi, who is the officer in charge of Kodiaga, said the result was the best ever recorded at the institution.
Mr Mwakazi said the prisons headquarters works with an international programme called The African Prisons project which runs diploma and degree courses at Kamiti and Langata women’s prisons which was also to be started any time this year in Kisumu. The programme only focuses on law.
“But there are usually special arrangements for bright prisoners. They can undertake distant learning or be escorted to classes daily at nearby universities,” Mr Mwakazi said.
“We try to support them with stationery. We ask willing donors to assist us in stocking the school,” he said.
Described by the officers as focused and disciplined, Mr Ondego is mean with words.
“I was jailed for attempted defilement five years ago. I thought my world would crumble. But when I joined Form One, I decided to give education my best shot,” he said in an interview.
The prison on Thursday evening held celebrations for him and six other candidates. None of them is serving a sentence of less than eight years.
However, Mr Ondego, who is from Kano in Kisumu, says his ordinary level certificate would not have been if he had not been imprisoned. Having sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination in the mid-1990s, scoring 250 marks out of 700 then, he did not proceed to secondary school but instead started a family.
“Being jailed presented an opportunity for me to proceed with formal education, something I had already given up on,” he said.
“At times we are forced to merge classes in one room due to lack of space. Teachers lack staff-rooms,” says Mr David Livingstone, a teacher at Kodiaga.