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Al Qasimi Foundation Marks 5 Years of Continuing Education Courses as Part of the RAK Prison Project

Al Qasimi Foundation
June 28, 2017

This September will mark the fifth year of the Al Qasimi Foundation’s continuing education courses for inmates at the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Correctional Facility. The courses are part of the RAK Prison Project, which seeks to prepare inmates for life after prison.  

“There are many studies documenting the positive impact education plays on reducing crime,” says Dr. Natasha Ridge, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “It not only aids in prevention, but also provides a meaningful second chance for individuals to re-join the community, especially for those who didn’t finish school.”

The Foundation’s work with the prison began in 2011 when it created a library for male inmates. A year later, it began offering continuing education courses to help inmates improve their literacy, develop marketable skills, and restore their self-esteem. Topics addressed include English language, information technology, life-skills, mathematics, workforce-preparedness, and how to develop and run your own business.  

Although the courses were developed based on inmates’ expressed needs, the initiative still encountered challenges early on.

“In the beginning, they [male inmates] were disengaged and attendance was sporadic,” said Ms. Hanadi Mohammed, the Foundation’s prison liaison and a course instructor. “We had to address this mindset, help them find their motivation, help them imagine an alternative future and give them hope.”  

She said it took time, but that attitudes gradually improved as participants realized the life skills they were learning and practicing could help them find jobs when they were released. In an interview, one inmate stated the courses have changed his life and future prospects, saying “It makes me feel like my time could be worthwhile in here.”  

The demand for the courses has steadily increased since they were launched, with registration rates tripling over the last three years. This spring, over 160 inmates participated in four different courses. Ms. Mohammed proudly notes that attendance was also 100% for the first time.

Numbers aside, the most rewarding outcome from the project has been the creation of lifelong learners. Participants regularly ask instructors for extra lessons and resource recommendations so they can continue learning after the courses finish.

“They feel responsible,” says Ms. Mohammed. “They are doing something that helps them, gives them skills, and offers a certificate. It makes a difference.”  

Building on its success with the male inmates, the Foundation is now constructing and outfitting a library in the RAK Women’s Correctional Facility, to be completed at the end of July 2017. It is also interviewing female inmates to better understand their needs to develop and offer a similar set of continuing education classes beginning this September.  

“At its core, the Foundation’s mission is about developing individuals and helping them to thrive,” says Dr. Ridge. “The RAK Prison Project has represented this from the very beginning, and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to expand this important collaboration and continue to serve the local community.”