Nearly every time one reads about prisons in newspapers in South Africa it is about escapes and sex scandals. This presentation, however, focuses on a success story which involved a community service music education project in a youth prison in South Africa.
According to the Mail & Guardian, many youth offenders who serve a jail sentence miss out on getting a decent education and skills development training. The youngsters at the Emthonjeni Youth Centre, the juvenile section of the Baviaanspoort prison on the outskirts of Pretoria, should, however, consider themselves fortunate in as far as access to education within juvenile prisons is concerned.
It will be explained in this presentation how youth offenders were encouraged to engage in a music skills development project to gain more self-esteem and help them believe in themselves again beyond their circumstances. The focus of this project was to use group music as a method of rehabilitation of offenders. The music programme did not only strive to tap into the potential of the young boys as far as the development of music skills was concerned, but it also helped them to develop very important life skills at the same time.
Making music in a group proved to have an enormous influence on participants’ physical health and on their mental, emotional and social well-being. The low emotional, social and mental state that the offenders were in when the project started improved to such an extent that it uplifted their spirits and made them feel extremely good as the project progressed. The more the group made music together, the higher their spirits were and the happier they became. It was found that this intensive music skills development project for young offenders had a uniquely universal appeal, for it had the power to bring people together from different backgrounds and brought happiness into their lives. There was no doubt that music had a magical ability to stimulate, soothe and cheer up the participants’ inner-self.
Zenda NEL, University of Pretoria.