July 1: Life in a prison can be quite depressing. Where prisoners are kept away from their near and dear ones. But now things in Delhi’s Tihar Jail are changing. The prison authorities have decided to bring about some light into the lives of the prisoners.

True, the prisoners are here because of crimes they have committed. But, if something can help them become better human beings, there is no reason why they should not be encouraged. Why do you think?

Soon, a hundred inmates of Jail No. 3 in the high-security Tihar Central Jail will have a new identity — that of teachers.

From Prisoners to Teachers
From Prisoners to Teachers [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
The Delhi government’s Education Directorate has organised a special programme to create a system of formal education in the jail, reported The Hindu newspaper. It is using two ways to do this — by training inmates as instructors and introducing a proper syllabi and examination system.

The prisoners are being trained by eight government school teachers. For them, the programme is like a dream come true.

Two prisoners, Iftikhar Ahmed, a graduate, and Vinod Kumar Singh, an engineer, are the two coordinators for the education programme. Iftikhar says that as a result of the training, he and the others are being treated with some respect and not as criminals.

According to Vishva Mohan, the superintendent of Jail No. 3, the programme has made education in the prison very systematic.

“Earlier there were no course books, with inmates relying mainly on donated books and no system of examinations to evaluate the students’ performance.” Now the programme is formally linked with the National Literacy Mission. All the prisoners are being trained in such a way so as to be able to easily teach primary classes.

The trained prisoners will in turn train others with the help of three “primer” books, specially provided for adults receiving primary education. They can also write examinations for promotion to higher classes.

Besides the fact that education will help the prisoners after they get out of prison, it has proved to be useful even inside the prison. It has been a great morale booster for the prisoners. The Education Directorate is issuing certificates to those who being trained. This makes them feel important and worthy.

Besides, it allows many inmates to do something worthwhile in jail – an experience that might help them to review their lives.

The government teachers participating in the programme could not agree more. One of the teachers, Veena Jain says: “For once, teaching has been a great learning experience. We were initially scared of coming here. But now our doubts have gone and we like to even dine with the inmates.”