PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) authorities have decided to provide distance learning opportunities for prisoners to re-integrate them into society.
The Universty of Peshawar soon will provide the opportunity for learning sciences and the humanities to prisoners at the Central Prison Peshawar and the Central Prison Haripur.
The KP government decided to offer distance learning to inmates at the recent request of KP Inspector General (IG) of Prisons Aziz Khan Khattak, Akhter Amin, a University of Peshawar spokesman, told Central Asia Online.
The IG sent the proposal to the university's Academic Council, which approved it May 5.
"In jail, prisoners' time is wasted [otherwise]," Aziz told Central Asia Online.
The Pakistani Human Rights Ministry also asked the KP government to educate prisoners, according to ministry official Ghulam Ali.
More education to come
Prison administrators already are educating inmates, Aziz said, adding that they have focused on religious education so that prisoners will turn to good deeds and will become productive citizens after finishing their sentences.
In most cases, educators achieve positive results, even though re-orienting a hardened inmate toward constructive activity might be difficult, Aziz said.
Now, to supplement the mostly religious training that prison administrators already provide, the University of Peshawar will step in.
"The University of Peshawar will set up a centre for provision of distance learning to prisoners," Akhter Amin told Central Asia Online, adding that courses in science and the humanities will be available for prisoners.
The university plans to set up mobile laboratories for prisoners taking science classes, Amin said.
It will pay the tuition fees for inmates, he added, noting that the admissions process will start in September.
A large population to educate
"About 11,000 prisoners are incarcerated in KP," Ali, the Human Rights Ministry official, Central Asia Online.
The vast majority of prisoners awaiting trial eventually will be acquitted, he said, adding that distance learning will give them something productive to do. Inmates are showing interest in taking university classes behind bars. So far, 39 prisoners at Central Prison Peshawar have applied to take those classes when they become available, Ali said.
Praise for the initiative
Observers are glad to see inmates benefiting from education.
The educational initiative "will benefit prisoners", Syed Jaffar Shah, a member of the KP Assembly, told Central Asia Online.
It "will help them re-integrate into society", he added.
"The university administration believes that educating prisoners will help them change their lives and become useful citizens," Prof. Abdul Ghafoor, former director of the Sheikh Zahid Islamic Centre Peshawar, told Central Asia Online.
"The decision is very commendable and is also in accordance with the spirit of Islam," he said.
The KP government has given inmates the opportunity to change their lives, Ghafoor, also a former district khatib (chief prayer leader) of Peshawar, said.
"If a prisoner is left unattended during imprisonment, he has a great chance of re-committing the crime that he committed before," Ghafoor said.
Ghafoor suggested providing technical training as well, so that prisoners will have a marketable skill after their release.