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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

Language barriers are breaking behind bars

Neelam Pandey, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 03, 2013
First Published: 00:51 IST(3/2/2013) | Last Updated: 00:54 IST(3/2/2013)

After initiating several reformatory measures for its inmates so that they do not return to the world of crime, the Tihar Jail authorities are now equipping prisoners with language skills.

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The move comes after frequent complaints that several foreign nationals doing time in the jail are not able to communicate properly with the jail staff and with their fellow inmates. 

Classes have been started for Hindi, English and Urdu apart from several foreign languages such as Spanish, German and French. About 150 prisoners have enrolled for language classes at the prison. 

The unique feature is that the jail authorities don't have to hire teachers for these classes. They are being run on the principle of 'padho aur padhao' (learn and teach). The prisoners themselves have donned the caps of teachers as well as students, depending on the language skill they have or they want to learn.

Not only the initiative keeps the inmates busy throughout the day, it is expected to help them in improving their job prospects.

"Under the scheme called 'Padho aur Padhao', inmates have the option of learning different languages. And as the name suggest, it is the inmates who teach their fellow prisoners and learn from their colleagues," said Sunil Gupta, spokesperson of Tihar Jail.

Two batches have already been completed and currently the third batch of 'students' are busy with their lessons.

According to the officials, a large number of inmates from Nigeria have shown a keen interest in learning Hindi and as many as 60 of them are attending the classes.

"A number of these prisoners face problems in communicating with fellow prisoners. They are misunderstood by their fellow prisoners, leading to arguments. However, after the language training most of them are fluent in Hindi," said a jail official, requesting anonymity.

"The Indian inmates have shown interest in learning English and nearly 40 are currently learning the language. There are a few takers for French and Spanish too," said a senior official.

The duration of the course is two months and the class size is 20 for one particular language. If the number of aspirants exceed 20, they are accommodated in the next batch. There are around 350 foreign nationals from 35 different countries lodged here.


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