Securing an O-level certificate as a prison inmate at age 36

It is never too late to learn.

Meagan Goh

Afraid of cats, but learning to be brave. Would rather live in a fairytale.

Published: 14 January 2021, 12:43 PM

Ahmad (not his real name), a 36-year-old prison inmate, is one of the top performers in Prison School after scoring all As and a B for his GCE O-level examinations.

Expelled from school in Secondary 2, Ahmad’s teenage years were riddled with drugs and gang activities. 

Serving a thirteen-year sentence, Ahmad wanted to spend his time behind bars meaningfully by resuming his education so as to secure a brighter future for himself after his release. 

“I never thought I would be able to hold an O-Level certificate. This is long overdue,” an overwhelmed Ahmad expressed. 


Ahmad thought getting an O-level certificate at his age was an impossible dream. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/CAPTAINSOFLIVES


When asked about his daily routine and his main source of motivation, Ahmad credited his desire to make his family and his children, an 8-year-old son and 13-year-old step-daughter, proud. 

He also fondly recalled how Chief Warder (CW) Mohammad Rashid’s encouragement helped him along the way.


Ahmad shared that CW Rashid always mentored him. PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/CAPTAINSOFLIVES


Ahmad’s daily routine in preparing for the exams included gathering other inmate students and engaging in group studies as this helps them all stay on track. 

Additionally, he stays away from small talk and what he believes to be “meaningless engagements”. 

“It’s about the learning journey. We should have the never-give-up mentality, our resources are limited here, we should try every means and ways to study.” said Ahmad. 

Since resources such as tuition are limited in prison school, teachers play a very important role in inmate students’ learning more than ever. 

Mr Lim Jien Hwee, Ahmad’s English teacher, showed no signs of surprise when asked about Ahmad’s performance. In fact, he was expecting it as Ahmad had always worked hard and was consistent in his work. 

The O-levels is just the beginning for Ahmad, who is looking to take the GCE A-level examination next. 

Although there is still a long way to go, his distant dream of wanting to be a software engineer seems to be taking shape, slowly but surely. 

We wish him all the best!

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