Ravi Kumar, a forty-seven-year-old inmate of Tihar jail, has something in common with thousands of students in the Capital at this point in time. The board examination fever has also turned him into a nervous wreck.
Kumar, like several students in Delhi, is gearing up to appear for his secondary or Class X examination soon. The only difference being that he will take the test with in the confines of a prison.
This year, at Tihar there are about 100 male felons who have shown interest in completing their secondary and higher secondary education. While 63 have enrolled with the National Institute of Open Learning (NIOS) for Class X exams, 33 have done the same for Class XII. Among them, six are foreigners from Nigeria and South Africa. The schedule is out and the exams begin in April.
“I was in Class VII when I dropped out of school. Honestly, I don’t remember which year I did so. I have a lot of free time on my hands here. Instead of sitting idle I decided to pick up from where I left off. I am sitting for the Class X exams,” said Kumar.
Inmates at Tihar first had the opportunity to complete their secondary and higher secondary education in 1993 when NIOS and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) started a study centre here.
Prisoners here are not on their own when it comes to preparation for the exams. “The more qualified inmates volunteer to teach those appearing for exam. Currently, we have four teachers taking care of Hindi, English, Social Science, Home Science and Economics and they take classes five days a week,” said Assistant Superintendent Mahendra Prasad, who was the assistant coordinator for the study center from the year 2000 to 2003.
Twenty-three-year-old Roshan Lal is among the 33 who will be appearing for Class XII exam from Tihar. “It’s only after I managed to pass my Class X papers from here that I decided to go ahead and complete my Class XII, too. I secured 41 per cent in the secondary exam and have chosen Hindi, English, Social Science, Sociology and Political Science as my subjects for the Class XII papers,” he said. According to Prasad, the average pass percentage at Tihar is about 60 per cent. While most take the tests in Hindi, a few, who are foreigners, attempt the paper in English.
“The oldest candidate this year is a 57-year-old inmate named Shyamlal Amarnath. He is appearing for the Class X exams,” added Prasad.