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Kenyan de-radicalisation teacher on $1m prize shortlist

Storyline:National News

A Kenyan teacher who gives classes against violent extremism is one of 10 finalists up for $1m (£690,000) prize for the world’s best teacher.

Ayub Mohamud teaches at a school identified as a recruiting ground for Islamist militants.

He told the BBC he was excited and humbled by his nomination by the Varkey Foundation, which works to improve the education of underprivileged children.

Kenya has been hit by several large-scale terror attacks in recent years.

Last April, at least 148 people died when al-Shabab militants attacked a Kenyan university near the border with Somalia, where the al-Qaeda-linked group is based.

It was also behind the four-day siege in 2013 at the Westgate mall in the capital, Nairobi, in which 67 people were killed.

Mr Mohamud teaches business and Islamic studies in the Somali-dominated Eastleigh suburb of Nairobi, which is popularly referred to as “Little Mogadishu”.

For the last five years, he has been discussing de-radicalisation in his religious education classes.

In a leaked report from 2013, Kenya’s National Intelligence Agency reportedly said that al-Shabab militants had been recruiting at Mr Mohamud’s school, Eastleigh High.

The teacher told the BBC’s Abdinoor Aden that he believes teachers can contribute to global efforts against terrorism.

He said that if teachers gave students critical thinking skills and confidence they would “be able to reject extremists’ demands”.

Analysis: Will Ross, BBC World Service Africa news editor

Given the scale of the global jihadist crisis many thousands of Ayub Mohamuds are needed.

Governments are focusing most of their resources on military might as they try to crush the extremists. But Mr Mohamud is in another battle – helping ensure the youth are not tempted to swallow the jihadist ideology and turn to violence.

I have met people who were locked up with young men accused of carrying out the 2010 World Cup bombings in Uganda and with those responsible for de-radicalising Boko Haram recruits in Nigeria.

They all highlighted education as the key because these men were unable to reason logically and so did not have the skills to counter jihadist ideology. That is why Mr Mohamud’s work is so important.

Al-Shabab has been at war with Kenya ever since Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October 2011 in an effort to crush the militants.

Nine other teachers have been shortlisted for the award, including a US Air Force officer who teaches in an Indian red light district and a Japanese teacher who gets his message across using Lego.

In its second year, the award was set up by the Varkey Foundation, the charitable arm of the Gems international education firm.

The first winner of the Global Teachers’ Prize in 2015 was US teacher Nancie Atwell, who donated the $1m prize money to the school she set up in Maine.

The winner of the Global Teachers’ Prize will be announced on 13 March.