Prison inmates excel in their virtual courses at UWI Five Islands

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(From left) Colin Murraine, Joel Kwame’ Seraphin, Governor General Sir Rodney Williams, Executive Director of the Lifelong Learning Unit Paula Lee, Kenisha Whyte and Kaniel Martin during the scholarship award ceremony earlier this year (File photo by Theresa Goodwin)
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By Theresa Goodwin

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Four prison inmates who were given an opportunity to pursue professional studies at the University of the West Indies Five Islands Campus have excelled and are the top performers in the course.

 Kaniel Martin, Joel Kwame’ Seraphin, Colin Murraine and Kenisha Whyte were awarded scholarships in April to study virtually in the Lifelong Learning Unit at the tertiary institution. The four residents of Her Majesty’s Prison were enrolled in a course entitled ‘Entrepreneurship: The Power of an Idea’.

Executive Director of the Lifelong Learning Unit Paula Lee said she felt emotional when she notified the Prison Superintendent of the scores, knowing the public outrage which had ensued when the opportunity was first extended to the three men and one woman.

“People were fussing and were not happy at all that those individuals who are incarcerated were receiving higher education, but it was a bold move by the university and I love it. Those four individuals are our top students for that class,” Lee said during an interview on Observer’s Connecting with Dave Lester Payne show.

“Tears came to my eyes and I called the Superintendent and I said to him, I like the fact that when people discounted them, they [the inmates] excelled taking advantage of the opportunity.”

 George-Ann Ryan, who facilitated the course, explained how it teaches the technical and soft skills people will need to be successful entrepreneurs.

The course had 10 modules, covering a wide range of topics from marketing to cost-benefit analysis and decision making, over 13 weeks.

The students were also required to take three exams to demonstrate they had a clear understanding of what was being taught.

“All of these students, their minimum grade was 85 percent which in UWI’s grading system was an A minus and it went all the way up to 92,” Ryan said.

 Ryan also explained that the students were very interactive and assisted each other throughout the course.

Meanwhile, Prison Superintendent Jermaine Anthony said the classes were conducted in two phases with each inmate spending a minimum of four hours a day studying before joining the courses in the evening.

A section of the prison was also converted into an e-learning centre to facilitate the programme.

“I am actually very ecstatic about it because of the negative cloud that was hanging over it. Just the fact that we were one, two, three and four is exciting for me and the rest of the prison population,” Anthony said.

He explained that the course had been advertised internally within the prison walls, and places were given to those individuals deemed best suited.

“It was an intense course; we had to whittle down to those we knew would have had the competence to be successful. We also wanted to adopt an each-one-teach-one concept and so we selected those residents who are going to be with us for quite some time,” he said.

More scholarships will be made available to other inmates in the coming months.

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