MANDALAY — More than half of the inmates in Mandalay’s Obo Prison that passed the 2017-18 matriculation examination are serving their time for drug charges, prison warden U Cho Win Tun told The Irrawaddy.
“Youngsters tend to experiment with new things. Sometimes, after they have tried a drug once or twice, they end up mugging people or stealing to get money. As the government is making an effort to fight drug abuse, these youths are imprisoned,” he said.
A total of 55 inmates from Obo Prison sat for the matriculation examination and a total of 27 passed—four of them received three distinctions and four others earned two distinctions each.
Fifteen of those who passed are serving their time for drug charges.
“I tried drugs. But one try can ruin your whole life. There are many other inmates in the prison like me who are serving their time for making a bad decision,” said inmate Maung Htet Hsan Sit, who received three distinctions.
He was sentenced to eight years in prison for drug abuse and was sent to Obo Prison in 2016. He completed 10th grade studies from prison and passed the 2017-18 matriculation examination with flying colors.
“I want to urge the prison authorities to allow the matriculated inmates to pursue [higher education] outside, Daw Nan Myint Oo, the mother of Maung Htet Hsan Sit, told The Irrawaddy.
Prison authorities say that they will arrange for them to study at the university level.
While some 60 percent of the matriculated inmates are imprisoned in connection with drug cases, the rest are serving their time for theft, human trafficking, mugging, and assisting murder, said the prison warden.
In the 2016-17 academic year, three-distinction winners and one-distinction winners from Obo Prison were released in a presidential amnesty. Inmates who passed the matriculation examination this year hope that this will be the case for them as well.
“We hope that they will be released too,” said U Aung Kyaw Moe, head of township education department.
In the 2017-18 academic year, a total of 104 inmates from prisons across the country took the matriculation examination; 47 of them passed—five got three distinctions, five got two distinctions, and 18 got one distinction.
The Home Affairs Ministry and the Education Ministry worked together to teach basic education to inmates from the sixth grade on starting in the 2013-14 academic year. And a matriculation examination was held for inmates at Insein Prison in Yangon beginning that year.
As of the 2016-17 academic year, another examination center was opened in Mandalay Central Prison. That year, seven of 11 inmates passed the exam. One got three distinctions and four got one distinction.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.