Correctional education, Malawi, prisoners’ rights, pipe dream, young prisoners


Young people are often incarcerated in penitentiaries worldwide. Incarceration is not expected to hinder their access to quality education. This article, guided by Marxist theory, examines the practicality of educational rights at five young prisoners’ facilities in Malawi. The study used a descriptive phenomenological qualitative research design to engage the voices of 52 incarcerated and released young people in semi-structured interviews to ascertain if prisoners’ quality education was a reality or mere pipedream at young prisoners’ facilities. The findings show a disparity between correctional education policies and the actual reality. Due to the inadequacy of resources and the negativity of the prison environment, the facilities failed to provide quality, appealing and motivating education to the already educationally disenchanted incarcerated young people, resulting in low enrolment rates. It was, therefore, concluded that education was still a pipe dream at young prisoners’ centres in Malawi.

Author Bio

Samson Chaima Kajawo holds a PhD in Education from the University of South Africa. His scholarship aims to investigate how the incarceration of various groups of prisoners such as young people and women impacts on their rights and access to quality education in correctional facilities and after their release. His research interests also include education quality, prisoners’ rehabilitation, as well as prisoners’ conjugal rights and visits in Africa. He has worked in Malawi Prisons Service for 22 years in posts related to staff training and prisoners’ education. He also teaches part-time at various universities in Malawi.

Lineo Rose Johnson is an Associate Professor at the University of South Africa, School of Educational Studies. Her academic background is in adult education specializing in correctional (adult) education in the Department of Adult, Community and Continuing Education. She has researched and published widely in correctional education, adult literacy, community development and indigenous knowledge systems.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


African Union Commission. (2015). Agenda 2063: The Africa we want (Popular version). African Union. https://au.int/sites/default/files/documents/36204-doc-agenda2063_popular_version_en.pdf

Agboola, C. (2016). Memories of the ‘inside’. Conditions in South African women’s prisons. SA Crime Quarterly, 56, 19-26. https://doi.org/10.17159/2413-3108/2016/v0n56a43

Aheisibwe, I & Rukundo, A. (2017). A survey of correctional education in Luzira Prison, Uganda: Challenges and opportunities. The International Journal of Humanities & Social Studies, 5(3), 47-53.

Ajah, B. O. & Ugwuoke, C. O. (2018). Juvenile justice administration and child prisoners in Nigeria. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 13(2), 438–446. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2658065

Althusser, L. (1971). Ideology and ideological state apparatuses. In Lenin and philosophy and other essays (pp. 127-188). New Left Books.

Alvarado, L. A. (2010). Dispelling the meritocracy myth: Lessons for higher education and student affairs educators. The Vermont Connection, 31(1), 10-20. https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/tvc/vol31/iss1/2/

Au, W. (2018). A Marxist education. Learning to change the world. Haymarket Books.

Bachman, R., & Schutt, R. (2018). Fundamentals of research in criminology and criminal justice (4th ed.). SAGE Publications.

Bella, T. T., Atilola, O. & Omigbodun, O. O. (2010). Children within the juvenile justice system in Nigeria: Psychopathology and psychosocial needs. Annals of Ibadan Postgraduate Medicine, 8(1), 34-39. https://doi.org/10.4314/aipm.v8i1.80344

Blomberg, T. G., Bales, W. D., Mann, K., Piquero, A. R., & Berk, R. A. (2011). Incarceration, education and transition from delinquency. Journal of Criminal Justice, 39(4), 355–365. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2011.04.003

Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2002). Schooling in capitalist America revisited. Sociology of Education, 75(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.2307/3090251

Brown, A., & Danaher, P. A. (2017). CHE principles: facilitating authentic and dialogical semi-structured interviews in educational research. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 42(1), 76-90 https://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2017.1379987

Chigunwe, G. (2014). Access and inclusion of inmates to education through open and distance learning mode. Greener Journal of Educational Research, 4(1), 1-10. http://gjournals.org/GJER/GJER%20PDF/2014/March/1218131037%20Chigunwe.pdf.

Coates, D. S. (2016). Unlocking potential: A review of education in prison. Ministry of Justice.

Cole, B., & Chipaca, A. (2014). Juvenile delinquency in Angola. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 14(1), 61-76. https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895813503465

Cole, M. (2008). Marxism and educational theory: Origins and issues. Routledge.

Coyle, A. (2002). A human rights approach to prison management: A handbook for prison staff. International Centre for Prison Studies.

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (5th ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Cullen, F. T., & Gilbert, K. E. (2013). Reaffirming rehabilitation (2nd ed.). Anderson Publishing.

Danish Trade Union Development Agency. (2022). Labour market profile Malawi – 2022/2023. https://www.ulandssekretariatet.dk/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/LMP-Malawi-2022-Final.pdf

Davis, L. M., Steele, J. L., Malcolm, R. B., Williams, V., Turner, S., Miles, J. N. V., Saunders, J. & Steinberg, P. S. (2014). How effective is correctional education, and where do we go from here? The results of a comprehensive evaluation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR564.html

Dubey, U. K. B., & Kothari, D. P. (2022). Research methodology. Techniques and trends. CRC Press.

Durrant, R. (2018). An introduction to criminal psychology (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Duwe, G. (2017). The use and impact of correctional programming for inmates on pre- and post-release outcomes. National Institute of Justice.

Erisman, W., & Contardo, J. B. (2005). Learning to reduce recidivism: A 50-state analysis of postsecondary correctional education policy. The Institute for Higher Education Policy. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED558210.pdf

Fambasayi, R., & Moyo, A. (2020). The best interests of the child prisoner in the context of detention as a measure of last resort: A comparative analysis of legal developments in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe. South African Journal on Human Rights, 36(1), 25-48. https://doi.org/10.1080/02587203.2020.1775495

Farley, H., & Pike, A. (2018). Research on the inside: Overcoming obstacles to completing a postgraduate degree in prison. In F. Padró, R. Erwee, M. Harmes, & P. Danaher (Eds.), Postgraduate education in higher education (pp. 211–234). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-5249-1_39

Faruqee, M. (2016). Youth prisons do not work. https://time.com/4543401/youth-prison-reform/

Finlay, J., & Bates, J. (2018). What is the role of the prison library? The development of a theoretical foundation. Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 5(2), 120-139. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1215524

Formby, A. E., & Paynter, K. (2020). The potential of a library media program on reducing recidivism rates among juvenile offenders. National Youth-At-Risk Journal, 4(1), 13-21. https://doi.org/10.20429/nyarj.2020.040103

Fraenkel, J. R. & Wallen, M. E. (2009). How to design and evaluate research in education (7th ed.). McGraw-Hill.

Gehring, T. (2017). Principles of the hidden heritage of correctional education and prison reform. Journal of Critical Issues in Educational Practice, 7(1), 1-9, https://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/wie/vol7/iss1/1

Giorgi, A. (2009). The descriptive phenomenological method in psychology: A modified Husserlian approach. Duquesne University Press.

Giorgi, A., Giorgi, B., & Morley, J. (2017). The descriptive phenomenological psychological method. In Carla Willig & Wendy S. Rogers (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research in psychology (pp. 176-192). SAGE Publications Inc.

Gona, S., Mugari, I., & Zondayi, M. (2014). Effectiveness of correctional programmes in curbing reoffending. International Journal of Innovative Research and Development, 3(13), 109-118. http://www.internationaljournalcorner.com/index.php/ijird_ojs/article/view/135278

Government of Malaŵi. (2018a). Constitution. In The Laws of Malawi. (5th ed.). (pp. 17-118). Blackhall Publishing Ltd.

Government of Malaŵi. (2018b). Prisons act. In The Laws of Malawi (5th ed.) (pp. 1887-1991). Blackhall Publishing Ltd.

Hawley, J., Murphy, I., & Souto-Otero, M. (2013). Prison education and training in Europe: Current state-of-play and challenges. European Commission. https://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv%3A56865

Heslin, J. M. (2016). Sociology: A down to earth approach (12th ed.). Pearson and Sons.

Hollin, C. R., & Palmer, E. J. (Eds.). (2006). Offending behaviour programmes: Development, application, and controversies. Wiley.

Hopkins, S., & Farley, H. (2015). E-learning incarcerated: Prison education and digital inclusion. The International Journal of Humanities Education, 13(2), 37–45. https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-0063/CGP/v13i02/43833

Ismaila, S. (2020). Availability of reformative education programmes for prisoners in North West Nigeria. UMT Education Review, 3(1), 1-24. https://doi.org/10.32350/uer.31.01

Isufi, T. (2015). Motivation in the teaching process of young prisoners at the institute of reintegration, Kavajë. European Journal of Sustainable Development, 4(1), 139-148. https://doi.org/10.14207/ejsd.2015.v4n1p139

Jäggi, L., & Kliewer, W. (2020). Reentry of incarcerated juveniles: Correctional education as a turning point across juvenile and adult facilities. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 47(11), 1348-1370. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854820934139

Johnson, L. R. (2015). Offenders’ perceptions of correctional education programmes in the correctional facilities of Tshwane (Doctoral thesis, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa).

Johnson, L. R. (2022). Overview: Education behind bars in contemporary Africa. In L. R. Johnson & K. P. Quan-Baffour, (Eds.), Correctional (prison) education: An African panopticon (pp. 1 - 8). Unisa Press.

Kajawo, S. C. R. (2019). Examining the effectiveness of the management of education programme in Malawi prisons. Mediterranean Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 3(2): 203-213. http://mjbas.com/data/uploads/66218.pdf

Kajawo, S. C. R., & Nyirongo, R. (2022). Education of people behind bars in Malawi. In L. R. Johnson & K. P. Quan-Baffour (Eds.), Correctional (prison) education: An African panopticon (pp. 36–55). UNISA Press.

Kayuni, H. M. (2017). Strategic planning in the Malawi public sector: Potential tool for progress or regression? Public Organization Review, 17, 373–391. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11115-016-0345-3

Korzh, A. (2021). Education behind bars and beyond prison: incarcerated women’s education aspirations and barriers in Ukraine. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2021.1941775

Lambie, I. & Randell, I. (2013). The impact of incarceration on juvenile offenders. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2013.01.007

Levitas, M. (2012). Marxist perspectives in the sociology of education (2nd ed.). Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Lukacova, S., Lukac, M., Lukac, E., Pirohova, I., & Hartmannova, L. (2018). Prison education in Slovakia from the teacher’s perspective. Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 5(1), 63-79. http://doi.org/10.25771/z8dt-cn71

Makuwerere, A. M. (2020). Challenges to the effectiveness of rehabilitation methods offered to child offenders at Mutare probation hostel and remand home (Master dissertation, Africa University, Zimbabwe).

Malawi Prisons Service. (2016). Malawi Prisons Service strategic plan – 2015 to 2020. https://www.mps.gov.mw/resources/documents/publications-and-reports

Manzini T. L. B. (2015).The experiences of teachers in addressing the academic wellness of juvenile offender learners (Master’s dissertation, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa). http://uir.unisa.ac.za/handle/10500/19198

Manzini, T. L. B. (2020). The support of juvenile offender learners in correctional centre schools: A wellness perspective (Doctoral thesis, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa). http://uir.unisa.ac.za/handle/10500/27383

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1948). The communist manifesto. International Publishers.

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2018). The communist manifesto. With a new introduction by Yanis Varoufakis. Vintage.

Maxwell, J. A. (2012). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications.

McMahon, G., & Jump, D. (2017). Starting to stop: Young offenders' desistance from crime. Youth Justice, 18(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473225417741223

Meijer, S. (2017). Rehabilitation as a positive obligation. European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, 25(2), 145–162. https://doi.org/10.1163/15718174-25022110

Ministry of Education. (2020). National education sector investment plan 2020–2030. https://www.unicef.org/malawi/media/4561/file/National%20education%20sector%20investment%20plan%20.pdf

Msoroka, M. S. (2019). Problematics of accessing tertiary education in Tanzanian prisons. Journal of Adult Education (JAET), 22, 146-167.

Msoroka, M. S., Findsen, B. & Barnes, J. (2018). Prison education in Tanzania: Policy versus practice. Journal of Issues and Practice in Education, 10(2), 28-63. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343532841_Prison_Education_in_Tanzania_Policy_versus_Practice

Mwenya, B. M. & Chibomba, K. (2019). Assessing the provision of formal education to the inmates in Zambia Correctional Facilities. A case study of selected districts in Muchinga Province. The International Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Research. http://www.multiresearch.net/cms/publications/CFP13372019.pdf

Nagin, D. S., Farrington, D. P., & Moffitt, T. E. (1995). Life-course trajectories of different types of offenders. Criminology, 33(1), 111–39. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9125.1995.tb01173.x

Ng, P. T. (2008). Education policy rhetoric and reality gap: A reflection. International Journal of Educational Management, 22(6), 595 – 602. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513540810895471

Ornstein, A., & Levine, D. (2008). Foundations of education. Houghton Mifflin Company.

Ou, S. & Reynolds, A. J. (2010). Childhood predictors of young adult male crime. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(8), 1097–1107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.02.009

Pike, A., & Hopkins, S. (2019). Transformative learning: Positive identity through prison-based higher education in England and Wales. International Journal of Bias, Identity and Diversity in Education, 4(1), 48–65. https://doi.org/10.4018/IJBIDE.2019010104

Quan-Baffour, K. P. & Zawada, B. E. (2012). Education programmes for prison inmates: reward for offences or hope for a better life? Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology, 3(2), 73-81. https://doi.org/10.1080/09766634.2012.11885567

Roni, S. M., Merga, M. K., & Morris, J. E. (2020). Conducting quantitative research in education. Springer Nature Singapore.

Ryder, J. A. (2020). Enhancing female prisoners’ access to education. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 9(1), 139-149. https://doi.org/10.5204/ijcjsd.v9i1.1468

Samanyanga, I. (2016). The role of rehabilitation programmes in curbing recidivism in Zimbabwe prisons: A cognitive behaviour therapy perspective. Global Journal of Advanced Research, 3(9), 818-825.

Shafi, A. (2020). Researching young offenders: Navigating methodological challenges and reframing ethical responsibilities. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 43(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2018.1529746

Stapleton, A. (2000). The state of juvenile system in Malawi. CYC-Online. https://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cycol-0400-malawi.html

Stone, N. (2020). Segregation and solitary confinement in youth custody: rights and regulations in redressing developmental impoverishment. Youth Justice, 20(3), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473225420959144

Suzuki, M., & Wood, W. R. (2018). Is restorative justice conferencing appropriate for youth offenders? Criminology & Criminal Justice, 18(4), 450–467. https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895817722188

Themelis, S. (2017). Education and equality: Debunking the myth of meritocracy. Educação & Formação, 2(4), 3-17. https://doi.org/10.25053/edufor.v2i4.2375

Tracy, S. J. (2020). Qualitative research methods. Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact (2nd ed.). John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

UNESCO. (2015). Rethinking education. Towards a global common good? The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

United Nations. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. OHCHR. https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx

United Nations. (2015a). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development. A/RES/70/1. https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda

United Nations. (2015b). United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. (The Nelson Mandela Rules). https://undocs.org/en/A/RES/70/175

van Dijk, H., Kooij, D., Karanika-Murray, M., DeVos, A., & Meyer, B. (2020). Meritocracy a myth? A multilevel perspective of how social inequality accumulates through work. Organisational Psychology Review, 10(3), 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1177/2041386620930063

van Hout, M. C., & Mhlanga-Gunda, R. (2019). Prison health situation and health rights of young people incarcerated in Sub-Saharan African prisons and detention centres: A scoping review of extant literature. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 19(17). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12914-019-0200-z

Warr, J. (2016). Transformative dialogues: (Re)privileging the informal in prison education. Prison Service Journal, 225, 18–25. https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/psj/prison-service-journal-225

Zitko, P. (2021). Redesigning correctional education to meet 21st century learning modalities. Academia Letters, 691. https://doi.org/10.20935/AL691

First Page


Last Page