For Zareena (name has been changed), a Matric graduate and prisoner at the Women Jail, learning how to type an office document and making a slideshow presentation have been one of the proudest moments of her life.
She scored the highest grade in the computer course being offered at the jail.
The course, which teaches women how to use a computer and its applications, has become popular amongst young women like Zareena, who hope that the skill would come in handy when they are released.
“My certificate has been awarded by a certified institute and it does not even mention that I received my training in jail,” smiled the 25-year-old, who felt uncomfortable sharing details about why she was serving time.
“Once I am out of the prison, I am confident that I can get a computer job anywhere. I will be able to support myself and live without the label of an ex-inmate.”
Making the most of it
Sitting on a bed in a long hall lined with dozens more, Zareena admitted that she had barely used a computer before.
But she chose to let the past be and took refuge in the computer classes from the otherwise depressing life at the jail. “I wanted to get away from the constant bickering of the inmates and the depression of the prison life. I wanted to do something productive.”
She said that her family is a conservative one, where girls are not allowed to acquire higher education or learn such skills. “I realised this was a great opportunity for me learn about computers.”
Zareena’s optimism and hard work during the six-month course paid off and she scored the highest grade among her fellow inmates.
“As I was being awarded the diploma, I wished I was out of jail so that my family could see me and feel proud.” Her parents were ecstatic about the diploma and have hung it up in her room.
This is the sixth batch of female prisoners who were awarded computer diplomas. The jail offers courses for duration of three and six months which are taught by trainers from the Farhan Club Computer Institute.
There are only four computers in a small room which can be used by the women whenever they want. Two girls, who recently joined the course, were playing Tetris and were happy to have found a productive way of spending their time.
While video conferencing has been introduced in the men’s jail, the female inmates are keenly waiting for it at the women’s jail. “My parents just bought a computer and I can’t wait to use Skype to talk to them,” said Zareena.
Currently, she and the other recipients of the diploma are helping others how to use a computer.
Prize for some, incentive for others
Along with the satisfaction of receiving a diploma, the inmates were given the good news that recommendations for a two-month remission in their sentences had been forwarded to the home department.
“If the present government stays in power, I will ensure that all these women get jobs,” said the Sindh law and prison minister, Ayaz Soomro, at a recent award ceremony where ten women were awarded diplomas. Soomro also offered jobs to them after completion of their sentences.
The prison’s superintendent, Sheeba Shah, said that this was the first time that remission was being awarded to inmates. Although the computer classes were being offered for the past six years, she said “that such an incentive would encourage the inmates to take up more educational activities”.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2012.