Celebrating education in prison

Celebrating education in prison

As the start of a new academic year steps into full swing, once again we’re ready to kick off our legal education programme which we run in partnership with the University of London (UoL) , with many students moving up in their studies along with a new cohort of students joining the programme.

We offer a formalised training programme enabling prisoners and prison staff to study law through the University of London’s International Academy. Through this we can provide legal support to prisoners who are denied access to justice because poverty prevents them from accessing legal support. We believe that educating people in prison in the law enables changemakers to have a positive impact on their communities and provides access to justice to some of the most vulnerable in society.

The beginning of a new year is also an opportunity to reflect on the year we’ve had and celebrate the successes of our students, teaching staff and volunteers and commend the challenges they continue to overcome on a daily basis.

Results

We’re delighted that our students received encouraging results over the summer and are proud to announce that Susan Kigula is our first female student to complete her LLB law degree – an extraordinary achievement for someone who was initially reluctant to study at all, being on death row at the time. For Susan it was a matter of hard work and perseverance, often drawing inspiration from Mandela’s quote, ‘Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.’ Susan’s success has been of particular significance since she also won her freedom this year having petitioned against the mandatory death sentence in Uganda. Find out more about Susan’s story and APP students fighting the death penalty here.

We are also pleased to announce that ten students successfully completed their Diploma in Common Law in Kenya and are now continuing on the LLB programme. A total of seven merits were given with the highest result being in Contract Law with a grade of 68. This is the highest grade achieved by one of our students and reflects a high level of performance in what is recognised as a very rigorous LLB programme.

Studying from behind bars

An undergraduate law degree can be a challenge for any student who chooses to study, but the pressure is significantly greater when studying behind bars. Our prison students face strict lockup times, have limited resources and often have to deal with the psychological distraction of their sentence or pending appeals.

The average university student will often find a balance between managing timetables, meeting deadlines and self-regulated learning alongside their social lives and personal commitments. During the day prisoners are required to complete their chores and duties within the prison community – whether cleaning or working the kitchens, limited time remains for studies. Come the evening, lights are often out by 7pm with most of our students finding themselves studying under torch-light or resorting to the toilet lighting. Most students will accept that ‘first you are a prisoner then you are a student’. Prisoners are aware of the challenges they’ll face before signing up to study law, however, with great courage and perseverance they do so in the hope that they will have a positive impact upon their communities, with the hope of a more just legal system and a brighter future.