Blantyre-based Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) has called on President Joyce Banda to release two prisoners who excelled in their MSCE exams and have been selected to the country’s public universities.
The two prisoners are among 1909 students selected to two of the country’s four public universities.
According to the selection list released by the University of Malawi on Brighton Moses Mathaula from Zomba Central Prison has been selected to pursue a Bachelor of Accountancy degree at the Polytechnic while Thomas Chafera from Maula Prison in Lilongwe has been selected to study a Bachelor of Science in Crop Improvement degree at Bunda College.
Chafera scored 20 points and is serving an eight-year armed robbery sentence and is due for release in 2015 while Mathaula, who scored 18 points, is serving a 14-year sentence for theft by public servant and is due for release 2019.
Malawi Prison spokesperson Evans Phiri said the Malawi Prison Service has entered into an agreement with the public universities to ensure that the places for the prisoners who excel in the University Entrance Exams should be reserved until the convicts are released.
But CHREAA, who run several human rights programmes targeting prisoners, argue that the two prisoners have shown signs of reform and should be released to enable them to pursue their degrees.
“Prisons are places of reform and not punishment. What better form of reform can one show beyond putting such emphasis on education. As CHREAA, we are asking the President to pardon these two inmates,” CHREAA executive director Victor Mhango said.
According to the NGO, the prisoners have excelled under the harshest education conditions possible and they deserve special clemency.
“They studied under very harsh conditions yet they passed. So to make them wait to get into university until they complete their sentences will be punishing them. By working hard in their exams despite their conditions, that is a sign of reformation. And that is what imprisonment is all about, to reform those that are found in conflict with the law so that they can be rehabilitated back into society,” he said.
He added: “We know that the President is a supporter of reform and she can treat this issue as an exception.”