Among the competitors in China's biannual university-level examinations for self-taught students, which ended in late April, some were prisoners in pursuit of further learning.
"I'm confident that I will pass all of the four subjects in the exams," said Zhu Hai, a prisoner at the municipal jail in Chongqing City, in southwest China.
Zhu was regarded as a role model among prisoners in the city, as he has taken part in the exams for the self-taught three times and has passed five subjects in total, according to Hu Ping, a policeman at the Chongqing City Jail.
Serving a sentence of 17 years for embezzlement, Zhu was a civil servant before he was jailed. Now he is taking the exams for business management.
Prisoners should enjoy the right to learn, said Cheng Jianzhong, an education official with the Chongqing jail.
To allow educated prisoners like Zhu access to university-level education, the jail has, since 2002, teamed up with the local office of higher-education exams for self-taught people in jointly establishing special exam venues for prisoners.
Local prisoners may now take the exams twice a year. Zhu, together with more than 40 others, became the first group of prisoners to sit for the exams.
Zhu was once asked what education could do for a prisoner like him, who must spend more than a decade in jail.
However, Zhu, unwilling to drift along in prison and just waste his life, believed that learning more would prepare himself better for when he re-enters society.
"I still have 10 years ahead in jail, which will give me plenty of time to finish graduate courses," Zhu said.
At present, more than 100 prisoners in the Chongqing jail have taken the university-level exams, with a passing rate much higher than the national average.
Special exam venues for self-taught prisoners have also been established in another two jails and a juvenile reformatory in Chongqing, according to Tang Guifa, a local prison administrator in the city.
The educational aid policy has been spread to other provinces and cities in China, including Beijing.
Humanitarian concerns have long been given priority in China's prisons.
Besides educational assistance, psychological services, legal aid and retailing services have also been provided in some jails.
(eastday.com April 28, 2003)