“It is said no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones” N. Mandela
The 8th February was a day that made a profound difference for BBIT and BIF 3rd year classes from the Strathmore Faculty of Information and Technology, as students set off on a visit to the Kamiti Youth Correction and Training Centre (YCTC), a correctional institution within prison systems in Kenya, for boys aged between 18-21 years.
The incarcerated boys are taught positive life skills and values. The main agenda of our visit was to relate what we had learnt in class throughout the semester in Ethics classes. During the trip, we hoped to gain valuable insights as to the role that ethics plays in society as well as to learn how crimes are addressed in Kenya’s prison system.
The weather was crisp, a little sunny and at the same time inviting. A few students especially those known to arrive on time were already in the school compound chatting enthusiastically on their expectations and what it would be like once we arrived at our destination.
We were led by our lecturers Dr. Virginia Gichuru and Mr. Caleb Kandagor. The hour-long journey through Nairobi’s Saturday morning traffic led us to the destination, Kamiti Prison, located in Kiambu County bordering some coffee plantations.
We arrived at the designated time and were welcomed by the Deputy Warden Mr. Gabriel Kimani and Ms. Jane Kuria of Faraja Trust. Upon alighting from the bus, introductions were made and plans for the day agreed upon. They included a tour of the institution, tree planting and one-on-one sessions with the boys in the correctional centre.
The tour around the institution took us to the dormitories which were unbelievably immaculate, neat and tidy; we also visited the farm, where the boys had done a remarkable job.
For the afternoon sessions, we were divided into groups, with 2-3 inmates per group. Here we heard first hand their experiences, challenges, and how being in a rehabilitation centre had impacted their lives. Many of us students were shocked that what can be considered to be petty crimes can actually land one in prison.
With the discussions, it soon became apparent that a majority of the boys in the centre had a common factor; they came from broken family backgrounds. This turned out to have a significant impact and contributor to boys engaging in criminal activities. Deputy Warden, Mr. Kimani’s word of advice was that indeed, we have to uphold family values for the sake of family, the society and ultimately for the prosperity of our nation.
To unwind after the day’s activities, we quickly formed a football team to play in a competitive match with the boys from the centre; we won convincingly against Kamiti YCTC football team (2-1). To end the day, there was a short session where we handed out our special gifts to each inmate.
Finally it was time to leave. The goodbyes were rather emotional and it was clear that strong bonds had been established this day. This visit was deeply emotional and it left a lasting impression on many students from Strathmore University.
A special vote of thanks goes to our lecturers and students' organizing committee for their outstanding organizational skills and special arrangements for the trip. Without them, this wouldn’t have been achieved.
Written by: Phoebe Matheka (BBIT, 3rd year)