As a way of stemming the spread of violent extremism in youths and as part of the soft approach to countering terrorism, the Federal Government is planning to tinker with national school curriculum for more productivity.
Already, extensive assessments of schools across Northern Nigeria has been conducted in order to gain a better understanding of the state of education, so says National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki when he addressed the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOG) of the United Nations in New York.
The Soft approach was developed to complement the pounding of the terrorists by the military in what can be described as the “carrot and stick” method which has been recommended by some experts on counter terrorism across the world.
The Council had invited Dasuki to elaborate on the non-military aspect of Nigeria’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program also known as the Soft Approach to countering terrorism which was first unveiled to Nigerians on March 18, 2014.
“We have conducted extensive assessments of schools across Northern Nigeria in order to gain a better understanding of the state of education. We have now begun preliminary consultations with the Ministry of Education with regard to potential changes to the national curriculum and will be hosting an Education Summit, bringing together key stakeholders and policy-makers”, he said.
The Soft CVE programme has four basic aspects which include De-radicalization, Strategic Communication, Counter Radicalisation and Economic Regeneration.
Already, some prisons were being configured to achieve the de radicalization program, which involves training of a new generation of practitioners in the areas of forensic psychology, religious instruction with particular emphasis on extremist narratives, art therapists, social workers and vocational and educational counsellors.
Now, government is training a multi-disciplinary prison based treatment team including Imams to manage terror suspects responsible for developing curriculum and training in religious education, cognitive behaviour therapy, anger management, relapse prevention, empathy, risk management and risk assessment.
This stream is expected to “foster greater respect for human rights and rule of law; train relevant prison staff on CVE, to professionally handle terror suspects and issues of rehabilitation; develop a range of expert psychologists and counsellors to pioneer rehabilitation efforts and; introduce a more holistic approach to the rehabilitation of prisoners in the country, using in-depth psychological analysis and research to understand the root causes of extremism and other criminal ideologies.”
“Through Strategic Communications, we are working to counter extremist ideology and narratives. Extremists’ views are often based on ignorance, misconceptions, wilful misinterpretation and twisted ideology. In the case of Boko Haram, narratives are founded on a set of core beliefs that are opposed to the state and aspects of western education”, he narrated.
One of the ways to implement the strategic communication strategy would be by developing “a voluntary code of conduct on reporting national security issues that will regulate crisis reporting especially with regard to terrorism for the press.”
Also in this multi thronged strategy, civil servants and members of the military are being trained to strengthen government’s public diplomacy efforts.
Currently a documentary on Boko Haram and research on the Pathways to Radicalisation have been commissioned to further the understanding of Boko Haram.
The implementation of the Counter Radicalisation plank rests mainly on The Society Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) Project based in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and will seek determinedly to counter the drivers of radicalisation by encouraging CVE action in communities, civil society and government institutions; building community engagement and resilience; using education as a tool for countering violent extremism; and promoting religious tolerance.
Dasuki noted that in order to achieve the above objectives, key projects have been designed to ensure that education is used as a tool to stem extremism by emphasising the teaching of critical thinking and logical reasoning as well as sports, music, arts, and drama while also creating psychological support structures for victims of terrorism through the main stream provision of PTSD.
He told his audience “we are beginning to make real progress but are aware that these are but the early stages of what must be an extensive and all-encompassing set of interventions”.
Lastly, the former aid de camp to former President Ibrahim Babangida told his audience that the Economic Regeneration aspect of the Soft Approach to the CVE programme will work with governors of six north eastern states in designing an economic revitalisation program targeting states most impacted by terrorism.
Concluding, Dasuki thanked members of the international community that has supported Nigeria’s fight against terrorism but reminded his audience that “no nation has the monopoly of knowledge especially when it comes to dealing with terrorism” as could be attested by Great Britain, Columbia, Spain and Iraq.