RADICALISATION

Senate wants spies deployed in schools to fight terrorism

Countering terrorism

In Summary

• Cases of schoolchildren being radicalised in mosques have been reported at the Coast and in the Northeast.

• Kenya has become a prime location for al Shabab radicalisation and recruitment.

Students at one of Kenya's secondary schools.
Students at one of Kenya's secondary schools.
Image: FILE

The Senate is discussing a new law that would deploy spies deployed in all schools to fight radicalisation of pupils and students and to fight terrorism.

According to the law proposed by Nominated Senator Naomi Waqo from Marsabit, headteachers will oversee counter-terrorism measures.

The Prevention of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2018 would train teachers and other staff to be alert to signs of extremist leanings.

 

The Bill states that school regulators will carry out background checks on teachers as well.

In collaboration with other stakeholders, school regulators will establish ways to spot, deradicalise and reintegrate students found to have been involved in radicalisation or extremism.

The Bill is expected to generate outrage from civil society and other groups.

School heads will be required to immediately report to the National Counter Terrorism Center, regulator or the police stations if a student disappears, perhaps headed to al Shabaab in Somalia.

“Administration regulators shall immediately report to the nearest police station, institution regulator a case of a missing student where there is a reason to believe that such a student is likely to be involved in terrorist acts or to have been radicalised,” the Bill reads.

The proposed law currently is in its third reading. The Security Committee of the Senate chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji has already sought the views of the public on the Bill.

Last week, Haji tabled a report incorporating the public’s view in the final document. If Senators approve the Bil, it will be sent to the National Assembly for input.

 
 

School regulators and managers will also keep an updated record of all students, and ensure that teachers and other staff are trained to recognise vulnerable students likely to be drawn into radicalisation.

Cases of schoolchildren getting radicalised in the mosques have been reported recently at the Coast and in Northeastern

In Northeastern, cases of teenagers crossing the border and joining al Shabaab in Somalia have been on the rise. Poverty, poor parenting and peer influence have been blamed for the high number of youths joining the terror group.

If Senator Waqo's proposed amendments are passed, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) will develop a standardised awareness module on counter-radicalisation that will be taught in all learning institutions.

“The institution regulator and Institution administrator shall implement measures approved by the Centre to detect, prevent or report radicalisation of students,” reads the Bill.

Intelligence sources say radicalisation and recruitment processes are taking place in secondary schools and school students have ended joining  al Shabaab and other gangs like the Gaza group.

Kenya has been a frequent target of terrorist attacks. The largest, most high-profile attack occurred in 1998 when al Qaeda operatives bombed the US embassy in Nairobi, killing more than 220 people.

In recent years, the Somali-based al Shabab has perpetrated three large-scale attacks in Kenya: the  February 15 attack on the DucitD2 complex left 26 people dead. 

In September 2013  the group had laid siege to the  Westgate shopping mall and killed 67 people.

The April 2015 attack on Garissa University College claimed the lives of 148 people, overwhelmingly students.

Kenya has become a prime location for al Shaabab radicalisation and recruitment.

As early as 2012, reports indicated that Shabaab was attracting a large number of Kenyan converts to Islam.

By December 2014, it was estimated that Kenyans comprised around 25 per cent of the terror group’s ranks. Al Shaabab has primarily recruited within Muslim communities along the Coast.

School heads in these communities have said Shaabab militants have infiltrated their institutions, influencing students and recruiting youth.

In December 2017, Kenyan police raided an Islamic school in Likoni, Mombasa, arresting two to four teachers and taking 100 students into protective custody.

The children were being indoctrinated into an extremist Islamist ideology, authorities said. 

According to the Bill, Counter-terrorism awareness lessons will be introduced in all schools to insulate learners from radicalisation.

These lessons would be intended to prevent the poor and vulnerable schoolchildren, and well-off children, from joining extremist groups.

The Bill would give the parents, headteachers and bodies charged with overseeing education and children (institution regulators) "big responsibilities" to ensure they are not radicalised.

Institution regulators include county governments responsible for ECD pupils, County Education Boards in charge of primary and high schools students and the Commission on Higher Education.

Parents, according to the Bill, would be responsible for monitoring the activities of students after school hours and during weekends and holidays.

Like the school heads, they would be required to immediately report to the school, regulator, police or NCTC immediately if their children go missing.

“The parents will be required to conduct a search for the missing student, and notify the institution administrator and the police,” the Bill says.

The proposed legislation is silent, however, on punishment should investigations reveal the missing students were radicalised by their teachers or if their parents had a hand in their disappearance, or did not report it.

The Bill also spells out the procedure for reintegrating and rehabilitating radicalised youth.

“Where a child who is reported missing is found and it is determined that the child has undergone the process of radicalisation, the parent, the county education board, the institution administrator and the police shall be responsible for rehabilitating the student,” it says.

The police shall also investigate to determine if any other child in the school has been subjected to radicalisation or been subjected to extremist material or information.