Author: Degabriele, D.
Chilwa Approved School was founded in 1947 to reform juveniles through detention and punishment. Mpemba Boys was established in 1963 with the aim of providing a home for street children in need of care, as well as for those remanded for trial or committed after a guilty finding was made against them. These institutions were functioning under the Prisons Act until 1973 when they were transferred to the Ministry of Community, Development and Social Welfare. The main effect of the change was to move from punishment to reform through behaviour change, education and acquisition of skills.
Purpose / Objective
The aim of this study is to review the purposes and functions of the two reformatory institutions. The terms of reference were to assess the present situation of the institutions, to assess what support or resistance to change actually exists in the country, and to make suggestions for best practice. This review has been commissioned by UNICEF.
Interviews were held with stakeholders, including children in the two institutions. To allow for comparison, juveniles who are in prison were also interviewed. A review of both local and international documents has been carried out. This has been done to facilitate the proposal for a best practice model relevant to Malawi.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The new purpose of the reformatory institutions has not been fully achieved because the education of the juveniles has been jeopardised by sporadic funding, inadequately trained staff, insufficient teaching and training materials. In addition, the juveniles are cut off from their relatives and communities, making readjustment and reintegration difficult. Compounded with this, the Board of Visitors has not been meeting regularly in order to review juvenile cases.
In order to improve the quality of education, it is recommended that responsibility be given to the Ministry of Education. In order to ensure that allocated funds reach the reformatory institutions in a timely manner, the Treasury Department should transfer funds directly to accounts belonging to the institutions. A wider involvement of the community in training, teaching and counselling can be attained through the setting up of structures that can call upon the services of volunteers and part-time professionals.
There is resistance to change in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Services on funding and ceding responsibility to the Ministry of Education. The Courts are also reluctant to use alternatives to institutionalisation. The Police are unable to effect innovative measures until they get directives from their most senior officers. NGOs are unable to influence policy because they are not involved in juvenile matters after trial. The community itself often stigmatise the juveniles upon release.
There is a surprising amount of support for change. Those who support change include the State President himself, as well as the Minister of Gender, Youth and Community Services. The Courts of Resident Magistrates are already putting into place innovative measures, supported by the police. Other positive developments include the NJJF, which will oversee matters relating to juvenile justice, including post trial measures.
To effect change in the way the two reformatory institutions are run, there is need to involve all stakeholders in the system. A four-pronged approach: prevention, pre-trial, trial and post trial have to be closely coordinated to ensure that changes at any of these stages will not upset progress on the other. It is not possible to address problems faced by the institutions singly but to include all the stages of the system.
In dealing with problems in the institutions, it is necessary to look for, and use, creative and alternative approaches provided in the CYPA. The inadequacy of resources should not be used to detract attention from the real opportunities offered by the law. The law has been established to better deliver juvenile justice. Economic hardships should not be a justification for non-compliance with both national and international responsibilities.
There is need to reform the law, but having laws or reforming the same without commitment to implementation, delays the system further, and does not achieve anything. Before a wholesome condemnation of the present situation is made, it is essential to explore and implement the laws on the statute book. This calls for intensive training for all those who are concerned, as well as training for special professionals in the police, judiciary, NGO community, legal practitioners, social welfare officers, prosecutions and community leaders.
PDF files require Acrobat Reader.
Education - Non Formal