Inspiring story of Kenyan inmate who got a UK law diploma from behind bars

(CNN)My name is Pete Ouko and I am the first Kenyan inmate to graduate with a Diploma in Law from the University of London.

It did not come easy though.

I achieved this despite initially being locked up 23 hours a day in a cramped death row cell with only 30 minutes, if at all, allowed outside. I had no tutorial support and there were detractors — I even got my books late. But impediments did not make me lose hope.

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Studying from behind bars

My incarceration motivated me to pursue law.

Being sentenced to the gallows after a unanimous “not guilty” from the jury can be one of the most traumatizing experiences one could ever go through in life. But for me, it did not shatter my dreams, make me lose faith in justice or reduce me to a state of helplessness. I had read about the work ofInnocence Project in the USA and knew that such things could happen.

I rejoined class with the support of the African Prisons Project (APP), 25 years after my last lesson. Having seen the benefits of studying law, I requested Alexander Maclean, APP Director, to help enroll more inmates and staff to the course and many are now students in prisons in Kenya and Uganda under APP support.

My story has been great motivation not only for my fellow inmates, but also to the public and my son and daughter, who will be graduating with degrees in electrical engineering and law respectively.

I am now pursuing my law degree, also at the University of London. Studying behind bars means I have to balance numerous court trips, writing appeals pro-bono for my colleagues and advising them on how to make their presentations in court. Being the most qualified “lawyer” amongst two thousand inmates can be daunting but with the paralegal team, we are seeing a big success rate.

A Kenyan who watched my graduation on TV visited and requested that I draft for him a petition seeking compensation from his Chinese employers who had let their dogs bite him.

Seeing him come back to tell me he had been awarded a sum of $10,000 was proof that the education we get from University of London through APP was helping not only inmates, but also poor Kenyans to defend their rights.Below is the video.

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  1. […] is because, according to Vice-Chancellor John Akama, the institution attracts students due to its “better academic […]

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