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Muslim Poised for $1 Million US Global Teachers Prize

NAIROBI – A Kenyan Muslim teacher has been named in the top 10 finalists nominated for the 2016’s version of the annual US Global Teachers Prize.

“I hail from Wajir in Northern Kenya, one of the most underdeveloped places in Kenya, so I decided to teach to become a role model to my community,” Ayub Mohammed told Anadolu Agency on Thursday, March 3.

“Violent extremism and radicalization is a very big problem here in Kenya; the youth are easily coerced into joining militant groups,” Ayub said.

Mohammed’s nomination followed efforts he made to educate youth in Eastleigh district against violent extremism and radicalization.

The Islamic studies teacher from Eastleigh High School in capital Nairobi was selected from among 8,000 applicants from 148 countries.

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Dubbed ‘Little Mogadishu’ by locals, Eastleigh suburb has been labeled by authorities in Kenya as the main recruiting ground of youth into the al-Shabaab militia group.

“As a teacher I realized that I should be part of the solution but this time in the school where I try to use the classroom as a safe space, I have been trying to engage these students … bringing about a mindset change,” Ayub said.

“I teach these students about the ideologies and propaganda used by these violent extremist groups,” he added.

The teacher added that Al-Shabaab militants were brainwashing the youth with distorted teachings not found in the Quran.

“I tell them the correct teachings of Islam; I tell them also about the propaganda and every ideology that is used by these extremists to recruit. I also teach my students about tolerance and how they can live and coexist with other people from other faiths.”

He added that unemployment has also played a big role in increasing youth’s affiliation to militant groups.

“There is a challenge of solid-waste pollution and unemployment in Nairobi. Just like radicalization and violent extremism, I have turned my students into the solution,” he said.

“I came up with a roofing tile project where students recycle plastics and turn them into tiles, in that way dealing with the problem of housing and also unemployment.”

Ayub Mohammed has been a speaker at the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Abu Dhabi where he helped come up with new ways to fight violent extremism.

The winner will be announced in an evening ceremony on March 13 in Dubai.

The Muslim teacher said if he wins the $1 million prize he will “set up a scholarship that will cater for needy students in the community.”

“They will be able to go to college, go to school and then give back to society, I also intend to promote teacher mentorship especially in Northern Kenya.”