Inmates put spare time to earning degrees

Two convicts at Stanley Prison get university awards after years of hitting the books

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 4:34am

After 11 years of studying, Stanley Prison inmate Wah Wah, 37, has received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the Open University.

"I never dreamt that one day I would get a bachelor's degree," Wah Wah said yesterday, dressed in a black graduation gown for the presentation ceremony.

"Previously, I was self-absorbed, but through reading and learning I realised that I must rely on myself to reintegrate with society."

Wah Wah (not his real name) was not the only one feeling proud yesterday; fellow inmate Kei, 37, was awarded the same university degree as about 80 prisoners looked on at the maximum-security Stanley Prison.

The pair were among 97 who obtained 126 certificates last year across a range of academic courses and examinations, including languages, accounting and business, up from 117 inmates the year before.

Student representative Yuk, 49, delivered a speech at the acceptance ceremony.

"What I gained the most was not the certificate, but all the support and care from the Correctional Services Department, volunteers and my family," he said. Yuk developed an interest in theology by reading the Bible, which his mother gave him during his early days of imprisonment.

He was intrigued enough to take a long-distance course in the subject.

"Two decades have passed since I made the mistake of acting on impulse. I was 29 … I hope I can help others through my own experience one day when I return to society."

Wah Wah took longer to complete his degree. He began to study accounting in 2001 and had progressed to business administration by last year.

In addition to doing his coursework every day, Wah Wah composes songs and plays the guitar in his spare time. He is a member of Confession, a band founded in 2001 by 11 inmates.

The biggest difficulty during his years of study was money, he said.

"My family could not afford the fees," he said. "We had to turn to the Correctional Services, foundations and schools."