For de-radicalization programs to succeed, it is worth noting that radicalization is learned, thus de-radicalization can also be learned. Education remains the main game-changer in de-radicalization in that, the lack of it may push or lure vulnerable groups into terrorism. Terrorist groups heavily rely on the support of the youth for them to have an impact on society. They develop ideologies to suit specific youth vulnerabilities while offering their specific solutions to address these problems.
Educating the youth has to be at the core of every de-radicalization policy and practice. Not only formal and religious education but education in all its forms. In communities, cultural practices and values are the primary foundations of education for youth. It is from culture that people get identity, purpose, belonging and expectations. ‘Mwacha Mila ni mtumwa’ and when young people grow up knowing and appreciating their cultures, they will not veer off from its values, teachings and practices. They have already discovered their own identity and belonging in society that makes it hard for terrorist groups to prey on their vulnerabilities.
Religious education imparts values of peace and tolerance among people. These values help young people appreciate diverse cultures, traditions and backgrounds. This in turn creates a generation of young people with firm spiritual grounding, tolerance and nonviolence. It is a public secret that terrorist groups use religion to recruit and radicalize young people to their cause. They take advantage of the malleability of their minds and search for identity. But young people understand and practice the values of culture and religion meaning that these terror groups will have no one to support or join their cause.
For those who have veered off and come back, it is the responsibility of communities to embrace them and re-educate them on the right values and practices. They need to unlearn the habits and practices they possess and learn the communities’ values and practices. Once they relearn their cultural values and religion, they become productive members of society and denounce their previous alienations to terrorist organizations.
Culture and religion create the main sources of identity. They complement each other with identity, the right values and practices. Terrorist groups have no place in young people who grow up with the right cultural and religious values. This will in turn save a whole generation from terrorism and violent extremism.