Enhancing the Lives of Juveniles in Port Harcourt Remand HomeCATEGORIES OF INMATES• JUVENILE OFFENDERS• BEYOND PARENTAL CONTROL (BROUGHT IN BY PARENTS)• MISSING CHILDREN (YET UNABLE TO FIND THEIR WAY BACK HOME)INTERVENTION PROGRAM• THIS YOUTH, AN ASSET
Introduction The Remand Home houses mostly juvenile offenders aged 7 – 17 who cannot be sent to prisons for offenses due to their age. Purpose of Remand Home is to reform offenders and make them fit for society again. The Remand Home presently houses about 35 inmates, 30 of them male and 5 of them female. Government is responsible for the Remand Home Professional social workers take care of inmates
Challenges Program was Initiated to Address No formal education for inmates besides occasional sensitization by social workers. A good fraction of time is wasted in worthless chatting and could be boring and unproductive. Inmates needed some of the things their peers outside the correctional system had access to which they could not have due to their positions. The Remand Home was donated 3 computers by an NGO but lacked an instructor and thus facilities have been redundant.
Our Intervention Program: This Youth, an AssetPROJECT SUMMARY/OBJECTIVE Our project is currently a two-member team run one. Project has been ongoing for two months now. Four days a week with at least 3-hours are spent with inmates for project activities. Overall Objective of Project: to make the lives of inmates more interesting, give them a sense of belonging, make them more productive through creative activities, get them more involved in building society to promote a sense of citizenship that will be useful to them and society open release from the Remand Home.PROGRAM AREAS OF IMPACT Computer literacy instruction (utilizing 3 available computers) Introduction to the use of the internet (using internet-ready computers of team members). Community service projects (environmental protection and sustainability projects) Civic and social responsibility education/mentoring (promoting citizenship) Provision of both an E-library and a Mini-library for inmates to read during leisure Basic science and language education (Mathematics, English, Literature, etc.) Research skills (using the internet for information gathering) Essay writing
Computer Literacy Program My partner and I currently utilize the 3 computers to provide basic computing instruction to 10 of the inmates. Program is designed to have fast-learning inmates taught first so they can in our absence transfer learned skills to other inmates. By using our personal laptops connected to the internet, e- mail accounts were opened for participants and they now have an internet presence on social networks like Facebook and Twitter and this excites them. Program emphasis are on MS-Word packages as well as graphics designing using applications like Corel Draw. Photo applications like Picassa and Photoshop are also taught as it is envisaged that some open release may want to explore photography for part-time employment. An electronic library with interesting reference materials have been built for inmates use
Basic Instruction/Club Activities In the absence of formal education, inmates are bound to be disadvantaged when acquitted. The program tries as much as possible to create of semblance of the kind of education they are supposed to be receiving outside custody. One team member provides instruction in Mathematics and English with special interest in research and writing skills while the other team member in collaboration with two of the social workers handle civic education with emphasis on social responsibility and the need to eschew a life of crime. We designed two clubs, one for science-oriented students (The Science Club) and another for art-oriented students (The Literary and Debate Club) Inmates spend 2-hours weekly on club activities. Science Club members are mandated to take turns to do presentations on any topic of their choice during group meeting. The Literary and Debate Club mainly do reviews of selected books they have read from the Mini-library. Debating on topics like Drug Abuse, Child Labour, Juvenile Delinquency among others which have been scheduled for members are still in the infancy stage. These activities have effectively cut „wasted time‟, engaged inmates more productively and made life in the Remand Home less „regimental‟.
Mentoring and Community Service Leadership mentoring was incorporated in the program. Inspiration is constantly provided through the lives of role models like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi to steer them towards more productive activities. Inmates are constantly given responsibilities and assigned community service projects like environmental sustainability to imbue in them a sense of citizenship. Presently there are flower and tree planting projects as well as Keep Borikiri Clean campaigns which inmates are involved in. A roster has been drawn for inmates to do presentations on leadership and good citizenship. It is expected that through the computer programs they can carry out researches and do presentations using MS PowerPoint. The objective is to integrate all learning facets. Other students are presently involved in researching concepts like climate change, food security and citizenship responsibilities and are expected to do presentations to fellow inmates in the coming weeks. Inmates are being groomed to do presentations in January in at least two secondary schools on „The Need for Adolescents to Desist from Crime, Drugs and Alcohol‟
Results/Projections In our estimation, a lot has changed in just two months of the program. Inmates practically live a „normal life‟ within the Remand Home and feel less like outcasts. The routine of boredom and non-productiveness of inmates has been truncated. At least 10 of the inmates are pretty familiar with basic operations in MS Word now. The fast learning ones are already doing caricatures on Corel Draw. The fascination of inmates with computers brought out some latent abilities like graphics designing in some of them. The Club Activities have particularly strengthened the bonds of unity among inmates. It is indeed a delight to see them work in teams on a project to achieve collective goals. Members of the Science Club are always too eager to experiment in one physics law or the other and we think it is bringing out the genius in them. Community service projects actually gave them a chance to go outside the walls, feel freedom and share a sense of pride in contributing to the development of society Many of the inmates now utilize the books in the e-library as well as the Mini-library and are much better for that. Through the debates and weekly presentations scheduled for inmates to start January next year, it is expected that a better sense of responsibility will be instilled in them. The Keep Borikiri Clean campaign where baskets provided by the Remand Home are placed on the street with inmates occasionally picking dirt to encourage others to dispose refuse properly has actually in our opinion helped in changing the negative way people around look at the inmates. Many children will also have been encouraged to desist from crime and socially untoward behavior with the planned presentations which inmates are supposed to do in secondary schools from next year.
Challenges/Opportunities The 3 computers presently used for instruction are particularly inadequate, we need at least 7 as practically all inmates want to be involved same time. Program needs other volunteers to scale up activities for inmates. Presently only two people are in this team but the cooperation of the original social workers in the Remand Home has made the project move pretty smooth. Internet connection is at the expense of the team members and since we intend to make projects sustainable we need a long-term approach so in our eventual absence things will still be ok. There are still no computer tutors though our computer literacy program is designed to train inmates who in turn will train others. The first phase of project is intended to last six months and after that it is expected it will be self-sustaining without the intervention of the team. We need book contributions on relevant subjects for the Mini-Library which currently houses about 20 books donated by the two team members. We are however exploring the option of involving the community in the Library Project through a campaign tagged, “Donate a Book, Reform a Youth” Funds are also required to enable more community service projects be carried out by the inmates. Proposed rallies will need banners and materials like T-shirts preaching appropriate messages during campaigns.
Conclusion This Youth, an Asset a program let by a two-man team has operated for two months now. Program initiated to make the lives of juvenile offenders in a Remand Home more meaningful Program activities include computer instruction, introduction to internet, basic language and subject instruction, community service, club activities, among others. There has been a dramatic change in the house. Inmates use time more judiciously, life in the Remand Home is now more fun, inmates are actively engaged in projects that promotes citizenship. Support is still needed especially in the provision of more computers, more books for the Mini-Library, volunteers to scale up activities, funds for internet connection as well as community service projects. Juvenile offenders are indeed Youths that are Assets. We need to help direct their lives away from crime and make them more productive to the society as a whole.