Correctional Services graduates told to conduct themselves beyond reproach

One thousand and twelve (1,012) unemployed youth graduated today (26 November), as part of the Department of Correctional Services Learnership Programme. The men and women, below the age of 35, successfully completed a one-year training programme in different aspects of correctional services.

Delivering the keynote address at the graduation ceremony in Kroonstad today (26 November), Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said:

“Education is one of the top priorities of our government. The youth of our country must carry on with the task of nation building, and creating a prosperous South Africa. We are in dire need of dedicated, patriotic and action-oriented young intellectuals, who will contribute to building the kind of prosperous, and successful, society we envisage. This is a society without poverty, and without underdevelopment, where men, and women, girls and boys live in dignity, with access to opportunities to make their lives better and meaningful. Some of these opportunities include access to education. I must congratulate the 1,012 young people, comprising 506 males and 506 females, who graduate today as part of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Learnership Programme.

“These individuals have gone through theoretical, and practical, training for one year in different aspects of correctional services, first at Kroonstad and Zonderwater Training Colleges and then at the various correctional centres throughout the country. In the public service, Correctional Services is one of the Departments which contract the highest number of learners, through the Learnership Programme. Our Department must be a leader in this programme, one of the pillars of the National Skills Development Strategy, not only to generate skills but also to alleviate poverty and unemployment, keep our youth away from crime and contribute to the development of our young people. The Corrections Service Learnership has been specially designed to develop the capacity of young learners with an interest, and aspiration, to join the Department of Correctional Services.

“You have met the first criterion for employment as a centre-based Correctional Official, and one day you may join our Correctional Services family on a permanent basis. You have undergone a Learnership Programme, aimed at creating a pool from which DCS draws its entry level employees. This learnership is aimed at giving unemployed youth, like you, the skills, knowledge and experience to operate in the correctional centre environment. The learnership is aimed not only at creating a pool of candidates from which we can recruit for entry level, but it is a means for DCS to contribute to the mandate of government to provide training, and development, opportunities to the youth of this country. We have invested a great deal in you during this learnership, and are, therefore, keen to see the return on our investment. We would like to employ all of you permanently, in line with our operational needs as well as the applicable appointment criteria. In the interim, you will remain on contract assignment at the various management areas until further notice.

“The work that we do, as Correctional Officials, calls for a special calibre of person. Not everyone has the personality traits necessary for success in the field of corrections. Correctional Officials must have several personality traits, in order to deal with inmates and handle the stress of long hours in an institutional environment. One of the most important traits for a successful Correctional Official is tact, or sensitivity, in knowing how to interact with others. The White Paper on Corrections in South Africa states that the ideal Correctional Official should embody the values that the Department hopes to instill in offenders, as they facilitate and assist the rehabilitation process. Correctional Officials must have an attitude of serving with excellence and display a principled and caring way attitude towards others. These attributes include a principled display of qualities such as integrity, honesty and sound work practices, a willingness to adhere to the departmental code of conduct as well as disassociation with all forms of corruption and unethical conduct.

“What I have just described is an immense task. The nature of this extraordinary task calls for extraordinary people. It cannot be done successfully by just anyone. As much as you may be here because you were merely seeking a means to employment, being a Correctional Official is a vocation and, contrary to popular belief, one of the noble vocations in society. Much as it is noble, it is a thankless job – one that requires a special type of individual who is internally motivated to make a difference in the lives of those who have been rejected by society. In your life, and career path, continue to hold onto the noble principles that have allowed you to reach this point. We, therefore, expect the highest standards of Correctional Officials: they must be beyond reproach; they must be highly disciplined; they must have the highest standards of professionalism.

“Yesterday (25 November), the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign commenced. Together, let us take actions to support the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign.

“From today (26 November 2012), DCS commences with a heightened period of security operations in all correctional facilities to prevent escapes during the festive season. Through Operation Vala, we must to ensure a safe, and secure, festive season for all citizens. We, therefore, call upon all officials to be vigilant around issues of security.

“On Wednesday (28 November), we will officially host the provincial launch of the Victim-Offender Dialogue in Mpumalanga province. Through these dialogues, DCS is embarking on a renewed focus to bring victims, and offenders, together in a safe space where relationships can be restored and forgiveness sought. The main thrust of this programme is to keep as many people as possible away from imprisonment, through reconstruction of family units, and community systems, as well as victim support and empowerment, while pursuing the rehabilitation of those already incarcerated through well-managed rehabilitation programmes,” said the Minister.

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