The Role of Education In Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) In Nigeria, By Mallam Alhaji Umar
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in Nigeria is a relatively new paradigm in Peace and Conflict Studies. While violent extremism refers to the activities and beliefs of individuals and groups who employ violence and terror-related acts to achieve political, religious, social, cultural and economic aims, CVE describes all the proactive measures put in place to combat/neutralize violence by extremists.
In recent years, the role of education in countering violent extremism (CVE) in Nigeria has gained prominence among policymakers and practitioners. Tackling violent extremism through education is reflective of a broader international shift towards terrorism prevention and the need to identify the enabling environment for extremists to disseminate their ideologies and recruit supporters.
In order to inform current and future CVE programming and good practices it is advisable to share experiences and lessons such as sports and culture, community engagement, and rehabilitation.
Quality education can play a critical role in helping young people distance themselves from extremism and resist the ‘pull factors,’ that may drive them to recruitment. However, experts stress that quality education alone is not sufficient to prevent violent extremism. In addition to providing quality education, more effective education policies and interventions with the specific goal of countering violent extremism should be focused on communities where youth are vulnerable to violent extremism and specifically tailored to fit the local context.
In building community resilience against violent extremism, participants stressed the importance of utilizing existing networks, resources and programmes that could be further strengthened by informed, well-designed, and inclusive policies. Effective CVE and education programming is not only about the content of the curriculum, it is also about fostering relationships between people and their communities in order to ensure a safe, collaborative, and constructive environment. Building effective partnerships between the education sector and the greater community (including law enforcement agencies) may help to develop opportunities for students to engage in positive activities in their communities, and may create a sense of shared responsibility for their safety and development.
Building effective partnerships is important in developing resilience to the divisive narratives expounded by extremist groups. Within the primary and secondary school systems, building effective partnerships also means educating and supporting practitioners inside the educational establishments in addressing issues such as faith, culture, and radical political thought. Religious and cultural community leaders, law enforcement officers and topical experts play a vital role in providing necessary support for the education system where they are able.
Educational institutions can play a role in facilitating community dialogue and strengthening the relationship between institutions and their communities. Universities, for example, could provide an independent “safe” space where community actors could voice their concerns, discuss pressing issues, and solve problems. Along with building effective partnerships, there is the need to build and strengthen trust between governments and educational institutions, and between schools and communities. Trust is especially important for regions where teachers and law enforcement officials are the government’s only front-line workers; poor performance by educators or law enforcement officials may exacerbate the community’s grievances and frustrations, and decrease the community’s resilience against violent extremism. It must be stressed that it is important that CVE programs to be viewed as a means of supporting the well being of the community, rather than as means of monitoring or gathering information against communities.
A well-rounded educational experience that encourages creative thinking and curiosity for a diverse range of interests is critical. This type of learning increases exposure to diversity, critical thinking, and collaboration. Curricula and school programmes that promote a healthy exchange of ideas could encourage students to broaden their horizons, think critically, and become more self-aware.
Nigeria must do all it can within educational spaces to halt the spread of violent extremist ideologies. Schools need to enhance their curricula by engaging with youth outside the classroom. For example, sports, art, drama, theatre, clubs, debate teams, and other after-school programs, specifically designed for a particular subset of vulnerable youth, could help them develop positive interests and promote a sense of self-worth and self-confidence.