GILBERT NIWAMANYA | TEDX, WELFARE AND REHABILITATION
Gilbert Niwamanya, aged 36, is the Welfare and Rehabilitation Officer/Head of Inmates School at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, Kampala, where he’s worked for the past 5 years. He catches up with African Prisons Project’s Emmanuel James Oteng on all things prison in Uganda, Tedx Luzira and Education.
Why did you join Uganda Prisons Services?
I joined Uganda Prisons Services because I wanted to help the needy, especially those who were not only vulnerable but had lost their liberty.
When did you first hear about the African Prisons Project (APP)?
I first heard about APP in 2012.
What does a typical day look like for you in Luzira?
I get to the office between 07:30am and 08:00am and work until 05:30pm or 06:00pm with a lunch break from 01:00pm for one hour. Typically, I sit in my office but there is no typical day. I divide my work between welfare and education.
The welfare work is on-going due to its nature as mainly counselling. Inmates come to my office when they need my help or guidance. Again, under this, mainly counselling, guidance and social linkage. That is, I link inmates to the outside world. I balance the education work against this but not forgetting scheduled meetings and events.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is rehabilitating inmates. This, later on, leads to a decline in re-offending. Nothing feels greater than seeing someone come into prison wild and go out rehabilitated.
What are your thoughts about TEDx Luzira?
To me, TEDx Luzira was very fine because it gave a chance to ex-prisoners to share their experiences. This gave those who were still behind bars hope. Also, it allowed the world to see the benefits of an open-door and collaborative policy.
How did inmates view TEDx Luzira?
The comments that I have heard amongst the inmates is that it was a very nice and interesting event. They definitely enjoyed it and would like another event organised.
What would you hope for prison education in the future? I would like to see many other educational programmes brought on board, programmes such as Bachelor’s Degree Programmes in Education, ICT and Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. I would like to see shorter, tailored courses like hairdressing, soap making and baking.
Why did you choose to educate prisoners as a career?
Prisoners need to be educated to reduce recidivism. When you skill an inmate, upon release they can employ themselves instead of looking for a job. Most crimes here have been committed by people lacking education. Education instils discipline in them and makes them more law-abiding citizens.
You are a Welfare & Rehabilitation Officer as well as the Head of Inmates School at Luzira. Please, can you explain what these roles entail?
What does it mean to be a Welfare & Rehabilitation Officer? In the education part of my job, I arrange admission of learners to school or education. I also implement the National Curriculum and National Syllabus as laid down by the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports.
What role do you believe APP has played in reducing recidivism?
But this is very simple, look at the trainings that they (APP) give the inmates, especially law, which makes them (inmates) understand the law and where they conflicted with it. Now, they understand and they won’t conflict with it again.
Have you seen a notable difference in the numbers of inmates who have or are working with APP and those individuals being readmitted back into prison?
I have not seen any prisoners who have been supported by APP come back.
What would you like the prisons services to have more of?
If the prisons budget was increased, our resources would increase too. Many more supporters coming on board too would help, especially to implement the education programme.
What are the main challenges you face with the education programme?
We always have insufficient stationery for our growing needs. Our programme is becoming more successful and attracting more students. Additionally, increased numbers require us to have more classroom furniture, desks, benches and such. Books suitable for the Ugandan curriculum are also in great demand. Of these books, we require more at the primary school-level than, say, secondary and university levels. We have a primary school population in prisons – countrywide, that is approximately 1,200 strong. On average, each student needs at least one academic textbook per year in six subjects, these being Mathematics, English, Science, Social Studies, Islamic Religious education and Christian Religious Education. Because of cultural compatibility, Ugandan authored or published books would do better with this population because the writers can better understand the cultural contexts that are more easily picked up by the intended students.
Gilbert, thank you very much for the interview.