Raising the bar from behind bars: From criminal teen to top achieving pupil in a KZN correctional facility

2019-01-04 20:02
Nhlakanipho Mpofana, the top achieving KZN pupil in a Correctional Facility. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

Nhlakanipho Mpofana, the top achieving KZN pupil in a Correctional Facility. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

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Entering a correctional facility as a teenager, a young KwaZulu-Natal boy thought that all hope was lost.

After being convicted for an attempted murder at the age of 17 in 2016, Nhlakanipho Mpofana has now emerged as the top achieving pupil in a KwaZulu-Natal correctional facility, racking up three distinctions out of his eight subjects.

"I went into prison a very angry person. I did not want to do anything, and I was lost," he told News24 on Friday, shortly after receiving his award at the International Convention Centre (ICC) from MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana.

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Mpofana, now 21, said that his life was one that gave way to pressures from all around him.

"There was a lot of pressure on me from my friends. I was mixed up in the wrong crowd and the way I used to think was not good."

He said that after he was convicted, he felt his life was over.

'It was not always easy'

"It was just too much. I just knew that I was at my lowest. I did not have hope and I felt like nothing could be done for me."

But then, one day, he heard about the matric programme in Westville Prison.

"I saw that many pupils were becoming better people after deciding to do their studies. They had a lot of purpose and I could see hope. I thought, maybe this could change my life. Suddenly, there was new life in me."

Mpofana made enquiries and, before he knew it, he was a pupil.

"It was not always easy. We would leave the facility in the morning around 08:00 and would return by 15:00. I would then have to cope with our schedule in jail before tending to my work."

He said his study regime entailed being consistent and not being afraid to ask for help.

"I even went for additional classes from 16:00 to 17:00. I would also speak to other inmates and ask them for help in areas I was not sure of."

'I want to spread knowledge'

Mpofana said that he was now eyeing the teaching profession.

"I want to get to teaching as soon as possible. I want to spread knowledge. Academics has done so much for me. I want to be able to do that for others. I just want to keep studying now."

With just three months of his sentence left, his new path is just around the corner.

"I just know I need to be patient now. It has been a long road, but it is very rewarding."

Mpofana urged the class of 2019 to never give up hope with anything in life.

"I want them to know that they can do anything. You just have to put your mind to it. I was at my lowest, but now I am something and I will keep striving. They must never stop. Do things for yourself and never fall prey to peer pressure."

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