Kenya: Prison Warder Fights Covid-19 a Poem At a Time

15 October 2020

A prison warder in Marsabit County has earned respect and admiration for his efforts in the fight against Covid-19 at the county correctional facility and within the local community.

Having observed prisons and correctional centres rapidly becoming tinderboxes for the pandemic the world over, Galgalo Abdub, 48, single-handedly embarked on an awareness campaign through poetry.

Speaking to the Nation at Marsabit Prison offices on Tuesday, Mr Abdub revealed that his approach was necessitated by the realisation that awareness-raising and information-sharing among inmates often remains a challenge in most correctional facilities.

"With a section of the prison and correctional facilities reporting Covid-19 infections among inmates and staff, anxiety gripped us and I, therefore, saw the need for creating awareness in our facility and among our community through poetry," Mr Abdub said.

To effectively accomplish his mission of debunking the myths surrounding Covid-19 among the locals and the incarcerated population, he decided to build synergy for fighting the crisis by partnering with a few inmates.

With a great percentage of the incarcerated population being illiterate, communication campaigns had to be condensed and conveyed in easily understandable language.

Awareness campaign

He observed that myths and false information about Covid-19 tended to spread rather quickly through social media.

Consequently, he decided to drum up his awareness campaign strategies by utilising WhatsApp forums, YouTube and local FM stations.

So far, he has two poems and videos to his name, shared on social media channels for the public to like and share.

He has also been granted opportunities on the local radio stations to enlighten the masses on the necessity of keeping safe during the pandemic.

He is thankful to his County Prison Commander SP Samuel Thirata for allowing him to exploit his talent for the benefit of the correctional facility.

The prison warder heaped praise on his boss for the transformation he has brought in the facility for the last two years.

Mr Abdub said that one of the worst failures of prisons and correction centres is the deterioration of the relationship between staff and prisoners.

To him, the trust of the inmates can be won back through giving them a reason not to be violent.

Isolation centre

"Prisoners should be treated as wayward children who are in dire need of polite but stern correction to help them reform," Mr Abdub said.

The bubbly prison constable encouraged his colleagues to look at prisoners as people capable of reforming to serve as mentors and role models.

Through his approach, an isolation centre has been put at Marsabit Prison compound for any emergencies.

Additionally, risks have been greatly minimised at the facility with strict adherence to the MoH guidelines on Covid-19.

The initiative was not only aimed at preventing the spread of the virus but also to provide a platform for artists to showcase their talent.

Mr Abdub has also composed poems on HIV/AIDS awareness; one of them performed during the East Africa Prisons Championships held at Kasarani sports grounds between June 11-15, 2006.

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