Inside Nyagatare Juvenile Prison in Nyagatare District, the environment is like that of any other school: the youth are sat in different groups, primary and secondary.
In one corner, a group is undergoing vocational training in different fields of carpentry, tailoring, hairdressing and masonry.
The only thing that reminds you that this is a detention is the signpost at the entrance of this facility.
In total, 344 young offenders are detained here and are undergoing rehabilitation. They get formal education, health services and other social services to ensure they are respectable members of society once they get released.
During a visit to the facility last Friday, Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye pledged to transform Nyagatare Juvenile Prison into a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) school to impart complete character change into the youth at the facility.
“The most important transformation we want into these young inmates is not only ethics but also the capacity to do something for a living when released back to their families,” Busingye said.
He explained that; “the juvenile inmates should have equal opportunities to learn the skills of starting a business like other free youths in school such that they sustain the pace of development in their families after correction.”
Dozens of youths have previously been, through a presidential pardon, released from the facility after they excelled in national examinations.
However, their vocational training has always been informal as it is not recognised by the Workforce Development Authority (WDA), which is in charge of vocational education in the country.
Minister Busingye said that government will soon change this, to ensure the children at the facility undergo formal training, are examined and awarded certificates from WDA.
According to the minister, the certificates will not necessarily state which institution the students sat from to ensure they are not subjected to stigma by prospective employees.
Busingye also asked the Deputy Principal for the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC) East Eng. Rita Clémence Mutabazi to work with the prison to study the feasibility of the integration.
Mutabazi said she would start looking into the matter this week.
In their interaction with Minister Busingye and the Commissioner General for Rwanda Correction Service (RCS) George Rwigamba, the juvenile inmates asked for facilitation to ensure they meet their lawyers several times before they are taken to court.
Busingye told the young inmates that the Ministry of Justice “signed a partnership with the Rwanda Bar Association (RBA) who will be providing them with adequate legal services and ensure lawyers are always available on time.”
According to Rwigamba, most of the young inmates here are charged with rape.
Some few adult inmates are brought in to help the juveniles in vocational training in areas such as carpentry and tailoring and, currently, there are 55 adult inmates, men and women at the facility.
Nyagatare Juvenile Prison is the only juvenile facility in the county.
It was opened in 2004 as an ordinary prison and later transformed into a juvenile facility in 2009.
Thousands have since been corrected at Nyagatare Juvenile Prison and have been coming back in their annual “Garuka Ushime” programme where former young prisoners come to share their stories with others in the inmates.