Using chalk and a blackboard, Kenyan teacher Ayub Mohamud writes out a simple lesson in front of the packed classroom: “Islam versus violent extremism.” Campaign against extremism.
Mohamud, a teacher in the capital Nairobi’s Eastleigh suburb, teaches business and Islamic studies but also discusses the deradicalisation of students, and is one of 10 teachers from across the world up for a $1 million (911,000 euro) prize this Sunday for his efforts.
“We need to make these students understand these ideologies of these extremist groups,” Mohamud told AFP.
He began giving anti-extremism classes three years ago, shortly after Kenyan troops crossed into neighbouring Somalia to attack gunmen from the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab.
Kenya later joined the African Union force fighting the Shebab. In response, Shebab insurgents carried out revenge killings and recruited Kenyans to join its ranks, launching homegrown attacks.
The most shocking was the 2013 seige by Shebab gunmen at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, which claimed at least 67 lives, and the 2015 assault on Garissa University College when 148 people, mainly students, were killed.
“We need to make these students understand the effects of joining these terror groups,” said Mohamud, who teaches at a school in a district dubbed “Little Mogadishu” after Somalia’s capital, for the large number of ethnic Kenyan-Somalis and Somali nationals living there.
His work for deradicalisation has been singled out by the Varkey Foundation’s “Global Teacher Prize”, with the winner due to be announced at a ceremony in Dubai.
The Varkey Foundation, which describes the award as the ‘Nobel Prize for teaching’, said the $1 million award (911,000 euro) prize “aims to put teaching excellence in the spotlight, where it belongs”.
While welcoming the praise, Mohamud says he is driven by the need to educate youngsters to prepare them in case they are swayed by those who call for them to fight.
“It was important for them to understand these issues, so that they can be able to have the confidence and critical thinking,” he said.
“In case they are approached, then they can be able to reject the demand of these extremist groups.”
He gives lessons showing how the extremists twist the message of the Koran.
“It is important for us to know about what our religion is all about,” said student Ahmed Hassan.
“If we know, it is very difficult for any stranger to change our mind.”
The fund, set up by Dubai-based entrepreneur, philanthropist and educator Sunny Varkey, a UNESCO education ambassador, is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain as a teacher for at least five years