Last year, Kenya suffered one of its worst terrorist attacks, when al-Shabab militants massacred 143 students and injured more than 79 at Garissa University College. Many ethnic Somalis took to the streets in the aftermath of the attacks to demonstrate against the lack of security and to complain that their community was being held responsible for the attacks.
The suburb area of Eastleigh in Nairobi, nicknamed ‘Little Mogadishu,’ has been identified as one of the main recruiting grounds for Islamist group al-Shabab operating in the Horn of Africa.
As a business and Islamic studies teacher of Eastleigh High School, Ayub Mohamud believes teachers have a strong influence on their students and therefore “should be part of the solution.” Kenyan of Somali decent, Mohamud has made a name for himself for his efforts in tackling radicalization and violent extremism in his community.
His work has made him one of only 10 teachers around the world – and the only African – to make it to the short-list for the Global Teacher’s Prize, the $1million award for excellence in teaching.
“I try to use the school and the classroom as a safe space, so I have been trying to engage these students on bringing about a mindset change.” Outside the classroom, he has established Teachers Against Violent Extremism and has participated in the Global Terrorism Forum in Abu Dhabi, where he spoke about his work. Furthermore, Mohamud helped develop a lesson plan for teachers on how to incorporate de-radicalization messages into key subjects such as Islamic Religious Education, hoping that one day classes in countering violent extremism become part of the national curriculum.
“I try to teach these students about the ideologies and propaganda used by these violent extremist groups and tell them the correct teachings of Islam vis-à-vis the propaganda,” he explained. “I also teach these students about tolerance and how they can live and co-exist with other people from other faiths and from other cultures.”
Not only can his students challenge radicalized messages and spread the message to their community, but they also learn the necessary skills to become successful social entrepreneurs. His students have developed an idea of making roofing tiles from solid waste such as plastic bottles. It has impressed several competitions, including USA’s Diamond Challenge because of its potential to change the lives of millions of slum dwellers in areas affected by poverty, cholera, malaria and disruption during Kenya’s rainy season.
Club de Madrid developed a Global Consensus on how to confront and prevent radicalization and violent extremism, wherever it happens in its 2015 Policy Dialogue. Furthermore, it specified 10 Goals or a comprehensive response against this global scourge.
The 4th goal calls for “educators to promote meaningful employment, human wellbeing, the empowerment of women, as well as tolerance and pluralism,” as a key for building peaceful and inclusive societies, where there is no room for radicalization and violent extremism.
As Ayub Mohamud said, “the only solution is working together in a more honest and open manner to tackle such challenges.”