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October 21, 2021

Why education is a factor in preventing violent extremism

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Education is a key driver in the development of children into productive members of society. One of those roles is the prevention of persons from becoming violent extremists.

As the saying goes, “Charity begins at home”  but unfortunately so does trouble. Just last month Kenya commemorated the 8th anniversary of the Westgate attack. Terrorism is a phenomenon that does not happen in a day; no one wakes up one morning and becomes a terrorist. For people to end up committing such heinous acts they must first have undergone a process known as radicalization.

Every terrorist was once a child beholden to parents/guardians and if lucky to teachers as well. The majority of persons recruited into terrorist groups did so while at home or school. Whatever a child becomes is informed largely by what they learn at home or school. Schools/learning institutions are places where children gain knowledge and develop attitudes that shape who they become. A safe and protected environment both at home and school ensures an almost healthy future for them.

In addition to formal basic education centres, there are non-formal education settings such as community-based learning centres, faith-based learning institutions i.e madrasas, monasteries, and Koranic institutions, vocational centres, catch-up learning centres and sometimes even juvenile institutions.

Research has shown that education can be deployed and leveraged to play the role of radicalization as well as de-radicalization. As a result, governments are increasingly financing measures that counter violent extremism as part of education programs. The shift towards looking at education as a prevention/countering violent extremism (P/CVE) tool is the acknowledgment that while there is no correlation between education and terrorist activity at a group level, at an individual level many terrorists are well educated.

Summarily, therefore, regardless of whether the lack of education is a push or pull factor into radicalization, there is general consensus that education may very well be the best tool to reach out to the young people who are at risk of radicalization.

In the words of the famous Pakistani Education Activist, Malala Yousafzai “the only solution is education, education and education.”