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Bring your naughty child here'

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MBABANE - His Majesty’s Correctional Services Department has opened its doors to children who are troublesome.

They will be locked up, rehabilitated and integrated back to society.

"Education is one of the progra-mmes intended to rehabilitate delinquents and children in conflict with the law. Noticing the strife that parents go through when raising some of their children who are unruly, we decided to open our doors to assist them," said His Majesty’s Correctional Services Commissioner, Mzuthini Ntshangase.

He said the department, through the Malkerns Industrial School, had availed a facility to the public to bring their children so they could be rehabilitated before parents lost them to crime.

He said the intention of the school was not only to correct offenders but also to assist in the fight against crime by rooting out elements from a tender age.

The school accommodates pupils who were both in conflict with the law as well as delinquents.

It is presently home to 279 children and has classes that range from the lower primary grades to high school. It has fully qualified teachers and an in-house psychologist who helps counsel the pupils in the tenure of their rehabilitation programme.

Mzuthini said the department school was highly compromised by the non-availability of a budget for the school and an acute shortage of teachers.

He said despite the challenges they faced, he was grateful to the teachers who worked tirelessly with dedication to teach the pupils throughout the year because the school, unlike public schools had no holidays.

The school follows the same curriculum taught in public schools.

He said the school managed to produce three pupils who were admitted in various higher learning centres, being Limkokwing University, the University of Swaziland and Ngwane Teachers Training College.

To the delight of the audience, the commissioner made a pledge to excelling pupils, that they would be hired by the department once they had completed tertiary education.

Friday was a day the pupils and parents would never forget.

The pupils mingled freely and openly with their parents as part of the school’s annual Family Day. Only once a year are pupils allowed to mingle with their parents and guardians.

This applies to both pupils incarcerated and those who were brought in by their parents.

This was an emotional event as a lot of the pupils cried on meeting their parents after a long time. Their tears were mixed, both happiness and sadness of meeting their parents, acquaintances after a long time and for generally missing home.

Through speeches, songs and dance, together with a hive of entertainment activities as offered by pupils, parents get to assess the pro-gress their children have made in their quest to shake off their past, delinquent and criminal activities.

Some notable parents present on the day included Musa Magongo, Mbabane businessman, Desmond Maphanga the Director of Swaziland Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation and Pastor Alvit Dlamini to mention but a few.

On this day, Wilson Ntshangase, Minister of Education and Training, elder brother of the comissioner also danced and delighted the audience made up of parents , pupils, Officers of the Corrections Department , senior government officers and parliamentarians before the event was officially declared opened.

The minister who was the main guest at the event also stood out towards the end of the event when he wowed the audience through dance that was spiced up with some traditional Zulu dance moves.

This was after he was pleasantly surprised with a portrait of himself made by inmates in their art classes.

Wilson said his ministry would support the school by providing it with teachers.

"We will give the school Home Economics equipment. The ministry believes that the introduction of Consumer Science (Home Economics) had a great potential of imparting skills that would assist these young people to be self reliant and be able to live a better life tomorrow," he said.

"The subject is not only meant for girls but boys can earn a living as well by enrolling for it. Therefore, the ministry pledges to assist in the establishment of the department as well as equip them both at primary and secondary level."

A second chance in life

MBABANE - Nomthetho* is a 15-year-old girl of  Fairview in Manzini who was living with her boyfriend before her guardian forcefully removed her from the boyfriend’s house and took her to the Malkerns Industrial School.

She is now a Form Two pupil at the school and is proud that she no longer drinks or think about men. She was admitted at the school together with her friend Tebenguni* who is orphaned.

Both of them were living the naughty ‘town life’ for teenagers which is dominated by money, cellphones, alcohol and men. She is thankful to her aunt who took her to the school. "In our dormitories which we share, we are deprived all the nice and good things. I miss my iPod and home-cooked meals," she said.

Nomthetho said since she was admitted to the schools, she had realised that passing her subjects was not too difficult.

She said in their dormitories which they share with children in conflict with the law, discipline was held at the highest order. "Even though we are not beaten, the rules are tough. This place is not for the faint-hearted because you lose a lot of privileges that are freely accessible outside. There is neither clubbing, drinking nor time for boys," she said.

She said they only mingle with boys from the school during school hours and this happens under the watchful eye of officers.

Her ambition is to complete school from inside and become an actress. "I have a passion for acting. I am involved in the school drama class," she said.

Her only gripe with the facility was that they were offered supper very early at around 3pm. By the time they go to bed, they are already hungry again.

Dudu Myeni, her guardian, said before Nomthetho was admitted at the school, she suffered a lot trying to correct and contain her behaviour. "My biggest problem was that I had lost her. She dropped out of school together with my niece (sister’s daughter) who is an orphan," she said.

"I was stressed because I could see that their future was doo-med. I heard through the radio that the school was available to the public and I approached the commissioner for assistance," she said.

She said she was happy with the progress the children had made and was thankful to the commissioner for giving them a second chance in life.

Simon Sihlongonyane is unemployed. His son whose age he estimated at 11 years said his boy was admitted at the school because he did not have money to pay his fees. "I am grateful that my son is in school. I cannot afford his education because I am old. My wish is that he finishes school to earn a descent living," he said.

Nkosingiphile aged 19 from Vuvulane is a Form II pupil. He is a former drug addict.

"I used to smoke dagga and I am now drug free. At the age of 19, I am determined to complete school. I used to be epileptic but since I stopped smoking and drinking I no longer take my medication for epilepsy," he said.

 Last names withheld to protect their identities

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