By Usman Shuaibu
The Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) has emerged winner of the 2018 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy due to an education for prisoners programme being run by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
The prize is jointly instituted by UNESCO and the People’s Republic of China in 2007 to reward outstanding individuals, governments and NGOs working to promote literacy for rural adults and out-of-school young people, particularly women and girls.
It was named after Confucius (551-479 BC), the Chinese educator and philosopher and one of the most famous historical and cultural figures, whose thinking still has great influence on education in China and the world today.
Winners of the prize are awarded a silver medal, a diploma and US$20,000 prize money, as well as a trip to the birthplace of Confucius.
The NPS, which was selected as one of the five winners of this year’s prize, got the laurel in recognition of its innovative literacy programme of equipping prisoners with useful skills and professions to facilitate income generation upon discharge and discourage future crime.
In a press release, the Director of Media and Publicity, NOUN, Mr. Ibrahim Sheme, stated that the university, Africa’s top Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institute, has for years been running the programme in Nigerian prisons without charging any fees.
Sheme also revealed that a letter from UNESCO to the Comptroller-General of the NPS, Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed, said that the prize’s jury “highly appreciated the programme for its innovative approach in equipping prisoners with useful skills and professions to facilitate income generation upon discharge (and) discourage future crime.”
Also, a letter from Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Ambassador Miriam Y. Katagum, intimated the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, that UNESCO recognised that the NPS’s education programme “is effective through the establishment of Prisons Study Centres by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).”
“NOUN should therefore be congratulated as the facilitator of the programme that won the Nigerian Prisons Service this important UNESCO prize.”
UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, said in a letter to the NPS’s Ahmed that the Confucius Prize will be given at an award ceremony for the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes, scheduled to take place at the organisation’s headquarters in Paris on September 7, 2018.
Both Ahmed and the Vice-Chancellor of NOUN, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, have been invited by UNESCO to attend the award ceremony.
An elated Adamu said in response to the news: “Glory be to God for this recognition of our programme to empower prisoners and provide totally free education to them from undergraduate all the way to PhD.