Underlying causes of radicalisation must be tackled

November 11, 2014 6:20 am
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Over the last two years, Kenya has suffered numerous attacks by al-Shabaab militants. The most brutal came in September 2013 when four gunmen took control of a Nairobi shopping mall, killing some 70 people and injuring more than 200 others/FILE
Over the last two years, Kenya has suffered numerous attacks by al-Shabaab militants. The most brutal came in September 2013 when four gunmen took control of a Nairobi shopping mall, killing some 70 people and injuring more than 200 others/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 11 – Eight-year-old Moses arrived home from school one Friday evening excited by what he had learnt that day.

Moses (not his real name), who attends a private school outside Nairobi, told his mother that his science teacher had taught the class how to dismantle and reassemble a gun. In the same lesson, he also learnt how to shoot at targets and practiced firing at the blackboard with a toy pistol.

According to Moses, the teacher told the class he was preparing them to defend themselves against terrorists.

“I was shocked,” his mother told IWPR. “I asked my son to tell me exactly when and by whom the lesson was given. He identified a teacher. I took a decision to go to school and talk to the administrators.”

Kenyan media have reported that a teacher at another school, in Nairobi’s Somali-majority suburb of Eastleigh, praised recent attacks carried out by the Islamist group al-Shabaab. He told a class of 11-year-olds that it was honourable for them to die fighting.

The Kenyan authorities and security experts believe incidents like this are not isolated, but part of an increasing trend of Islamic radicalisation which is targeting children and young people in schools and places of worship.

While the authorities are aware of the threat, experts say official responses have failed to address the underlying causes of radicalisation and the attraction it holds for young Kenyans. They want to see the government take a more comprehensive approach to addressing the problem.

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