Prison bars no barrier for Malaysian convict to graduate with MBA

VIDEO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - He was an illiterate teen when he was convicted of murder in 2005, but being in prison has taught him more than just life lessons.

Adam (not his real name) graduated with a Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA) on Sunday (April 30).

The 30-year-old has spent more than half his life behind bars after being found guilty of murder at the tender age of 14 in 2001.

For him, education provides hope and redemption.

"I don't know how to put into words the joy I feel right now to be here, with my family, to see them proud of me," he said.

"To share a meal with my parents, my brother, and sisters, is something very special to me," he said before the convocation ceremony at Universiti Malaya.

Adam graduated with a Master's degree in Business Administration from Open University Malaysia.

The last time he had seen his family was in 2007.

Adam said he was not stopping at the MBA. He also intends to pursue his PhD next.

But he admitted that the path has not been easy. He was lost when he was first sent to prison.

"The first few years in prison, I merely existed. Until an officer called Tuan Ajib told me to stop just waking up and sleeping every day and make something of myself," he said.

"That is when I decided to get my education. Little by little, I studied hard and sat for my SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, equivalent to Singapore's O level) in 2006 before doing my STPM (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, equivalent to Singapore's A-level) and degree," he said.

It is a hard life behind bars, he says, one that requires endless sacrifice and determination to keep pushing to improve oneself.

"And I am not stopping here. I want to do my PhD next," he said.

Adam is being held at the pleasure of the Sultan of Selangor at the Kajang prison. He hopes to start his own business if he is released one day.

"I want to support my mother and my family if I get out and give back to society," he said.

His success story is one of several that the Malaysia prisons department is working hard to push through.

Kajang prison director Narander Singh said statistics showed that a prisoner with a better education has a lower chance of being a repeat offender.

"We can't just lock them up and throw away the key. We have to educate them and give them guidance. They may be prisoners but they are still part of society," he said.

He added that currently there were 33 inmates pursuing their higher education in Kajang prison.

Datuk Narander said the prisons department would implement some adjustments to Adam's daily schedule to allow him to pursue his doctorate.

The department's inmate management director Nordin Muhamad said the programme to help inmates get their education was being run in the Kajang, Bentong and Kota Kinabalu prisons.