Greenlight Foundation board chairperson Ashley du Plooy
Greenlight Foundation board chairperson Ashley du Plooy congratulates one of the student achievers in 2014. (Photo: Greenlight District Project)

A dozen inmates of a prison near Johannesburg were awarded certificates in film-making and creative writing by the Greenlight District Project, which provides courses to offenders to give them new skills and life opportunities. The project receives funding from the Gauteng Film Commission.

The graduation ceremony was held at Meredale Facility, South Johannesburg on Wednesday, 20 April.

The inmates could hardly contain their excitement as the certificates were awarded at a ceremony attended by their families, visitors and prison staff. Master of ceremonies Chere Matseke, himself a former inmate of Meredale, gave the commencement address and congratulated the graduates on their accomplishments.

“Education truly builds confidence,” Matseke said. “You have elevated yourself above many other people with more opportunities than you've ever been given.”

Matseke urged the graduates not to let their current situation determine their future. “Your life is not over. You still have an opportunity to get back on track.”

Pippa Dyer, the founder of Greenlight Foundation who is responsible for teaching this course, congratulated the inmates for working hard. “I am extremely proud of you.  You did very well under difficult circumstances. I look forward to seeing great stories from South Africa emerge,” said Dyer.

Dyer has largely self-funded the project, but she recently received assistance from the Gauteng Film Commission. Gauteng Film Commission project manager in skills and audience development Nthabeleng Phora, who also attended the graduation, commended the inmates for the effort they put in their studies. 

“I think it will be a great idea to see the scripts they have produced. Education is something that should always be encouraged.” said Phora.

The Greenlight District Project also gave medals to inmates who wrote the most promising five minute film conceptualisation pieces.

A bronze medal was awarded to Tshepo Skhosana for his story on Me, You and Leukaemia.  Sabelo Maseko another inmate was awarded a silver medal for his story on “The Heir.

The gold medal was given to Ashwin Barnabas for his story in “Life Resurrected.”

“These stories are going to be turned into film once we get the funding,” said Dyer.

Other certificates were also given to inmates who passed matric in 2015 and to teachers who are responsible for educating the inmates.