NIBONG TEBAL: Being in prison is not an excuse not to pursue your education to the highest level possible as two inmates of Seberang Perai Prison, can attest to.

Jep, 36 and Ken, 34 (not their real names) who had previously completed their undergraduate studies while serving time in the Kajang Prison, decided to pursue post-graduate studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Jep, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Science (Anthropology/Sociology), said he decided to go for it to make his family proud and to set an example for other inmates.

“I am very grateful to have been accepted by USM as a post-graduate student and. At least, when I’m released, I have something to be proud of.

“I have five more months to serve. God willing, I plan to complete my post-grad studies at USM and, if possible, to continue all the way to PhD level,” said Jep who was convicted under Section 376 of the Penal Code since 2012.

Earlier, the Deputy Dean of USM Institute for Postgraduate Studies, Associate Professor Dr Tay Guan Seng handed over the offer letters and briefed the two prisoners on their course outlook. Also present was Seberang Prai Prison senior assistant commissioner, Husin Johari.

Sharing his experience doing undergraduate studies from prison, Jep, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the Open University Malaysia (OUM), said he had no problems studying in prison as it was the process of studying that posed the biggest challenge rather than the place.

He said he chose USM after learning that the university had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Seberang Prai Prison.

“I hope that my decision to continue studies will inspire other inmates. Over here, we have plenty of time and it should be spent wisely, like studying,” said Jep, who is from Kuala Lumpur and is still single.

As for Ken, his decision to pursue a Master’s degree was made to restore his confidence after being in prison for a long time and as a preparation for his release in 2021.

“Being in prison for such a long time has made me lose confidence like speaking in English. I hardly even talk to other people. About four years ago I started to study for a degree course,“ said Ken who obtained his first degree in business administration from the OUM.

As for the advantages of studying in prison, Ken, who is pursuing a Master of Art in Management, said it was easier to focus as he spent more time studying, but there were restrictions on the rules and time that the prison had set.

Ken also expressed hope to contribute to the community after his release and that the public would accept him and not judge him for his past.

“We want to prove to the outside world that we can be a part of and contribute to society. We did wrong before, but we hope that the society won’t judge us by that one day we did wrong as we have done something good too,“ said Ken who has been serving his sentence under Section 304 of the penal code since 2011.

Meanwhile, Husin said the prison would provide sufficient facilities such as a study room with computers and internet access to enable them to study as this was the first time inmates in the prison had studied at the post-graduate level.

He said they would also be allowed to use the room between 8am and 4pm on weekdays with warden’s supervision.

Meanwhile, Tay said as the two inmates had chosen the research mode, they did not have to attend classes because their supervisors would be coming to the prison to meet them for every discussion.

According to him, this is the first time USM has given prisoners a chance to pursue their education and the university really encouraged more prisoners to follow suit.

“They are accepted on merit. We will provide them with everything they need. We treat them like any other students and they will have to follow the same rules and regulations. There is no discrimination,” he said.

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