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Woman gets higher education diploma in Belarus' prison

One more story of the week. It's not that noticeable, but it is somewhat special, because this happened for the first time in Belarus. A female convict graduated from a high school and received a diploma of higher education in prison!

This high fence is no longer a hindrance in the way of obtaining a diploma of higher education for those who by the will of fate found themselves in prison. Two years ago here, in Gomel, a project was started aiming to make it possible for convicts to get higher education.

Kristina Smychkova says: "I could not miss the opportunity to graduate remotely from my native institute, in which I started learning before getting to prison.

Christina Smychkova, convicted:
I faced here people who have not even finished school. That is not my choice. I cannot understand how one can miss a chance to learn something new.

Two years of practice literally flew in this small office. Students from various specialties study here. Next-door are psychologists and managers.

Distance learning system is a find for those who are limited in freedom of movement. Libraries, teacher consultations and knowledge control - everything is through the Internet. But the state exam is like everywhere - with the personal presence of the commission. The only difference is that you are still in prison.

Christina Smychkova:
I was very worried, I did not sleep at night. But then I pulled out a ticket. Thoughts somehow began to come.

On International Education Day, Christina officially became a certified economist. In prison.

This diploma is not just a personal achievement of a single student. This is the first higher education document in Belarus received in prison - an achievement of the entire education system.

Marina Malinina, coordinator of the project "Education opens the doors":
This is a huge step forward. There were no opportunities for higher education in the penitentiary system in any institution. Today, convicts can receive higher education already at eight correctional institutions.

Elena Lukomskaya, deputy head of the Correctional Facility "Correctional Facility No. 4":
During the first shift they work and get education in free time. Of course, this disciplines them, first of all because they pay for their education themselves.

You can earn good money here. Over the 3.5 years, Christina not only saved for her studies, but also repaid bank loans. True, it took a lot of work to do this: she is now a seamstress of the 5th grade. By the way, Christina decided to improve her skills and entered the vocational school immediately after graduating from high school.

Christina Smychkova:
The university was a matter of course, but now I work as a seamstress and do not know what some operations are called. I want to know this all.

You will be a professional seamstress. You are a professional accountant. You can think about how to organize your own business.

Christina Smychkova:
You can, especially if I take from here a couple of professional seamstresses.

Christina has another powerful incentive: she became a mother. So if everything goes according to plan, her son Gleb will see his mother in three years' time.

Woman gets higher education diploma in Belarus' prison