A majority of the ideas employed in countering radicalisation and terrorism in most cases are reactive. In that they are about what to do when the seeds of terrorism have already been planted, meaning there has been little effort of pushing strategies to reduce the chances of young people coming under the influence of violent extremism in the first place.
In the recent past, we’ve come to the realisation that most terrorists are home-grown, in that they are often born and raised in the country they go on to attack. The following are strategies that can be used by teachers and schools to help stop those extremist seeds from being sown. They are not targeted to specific groups but can be of benefit to all students and learners.
1. Create an inclusive environment
This is mainly to create a sense of belonging which is a basic psychological need and the groups to whom we are affiliated shape who we are and who we become. Schools that only value high flyers create exclusive belonging and forms of favouritism where bullying and marginalisation can thrive.
Social exclusion inhibits feelings of belonging, self-esteem, perceptions of control over the environment among other things. Where there’s open involvement or engagement with equality, then individual contributions feel valued and others care about them. Whether or not this happens will depend on the values and practices that prevail in school culture. Teachers should also be encouraged to get to know all their students, as well as identify ways of improving communication especially from within their peer groups and also with their families.
2. Education beyond the academic
Education is more than gathering facts and passing exams, it is also about learning how to grow into who you are as a person and learning to co-exist. It is not only what young people believe about themselves that matters, but it is also what they come to believe about others. Where schools adopt a proactive approach to social and emotional learning they encourage young people to find out what they have in common, making it more difficult to dehumanise others.
3. Encourage compassion
There should be efforts to identify positive values and strengths and help students to understand the skills that are required to build healthy relationships, including the development of empathy. When young people are given opportunities to understand more about their emotions, they may come to a better understanding of why they feel what they do, and also find safe ways to express feelings. And they may also begin to appreciate how their emotions may be manipulated by others.
4. Give students a chance
Young people are often idealistic, want to be heard and want to make a difference. Schools can provide constructive channels that engage pupils positively with their communities in ways that provide them with a sense of being agents of positive influence and change.
Make students feel important by giving them a voice.