Monday, March 31, 2014

Arbitrary raids and arrests of innocent youth perpetuates insecurity and terrorism

The recent terror attacks in Kenya are always followed by arbitrary raids and arrests of innocent youths,  most of whom are not linked to any terror group. These raids and arrests only fuel hatred towards the police service and the government which has the counter effect of promoting extremism that can create a breeding ground for terrorist groups to recruit such disgruntled and often unemployed youth.

Recently in Mombasa, Kenya, the police raided a mosque in Likoni and arrested hundreds of youth, and one of the youth has 'vanished' up to now. Just a week ago, police in Nairobi arrested several youth and charged about 40 of them with loitering charges. Two of the youth arrested were innocent hardworking youth who have previously volunteered with me on a project to provide economic opportunities for unemployed youth. There are reports in the Kenyan media that police raided student hostels in Eastleigh area in Nairobi last night at 2 a.m and harassed innocent youth, arguably on trying to 'chase' terrorists. How is this really related to unraveling the real people behind terrorism?

 According to the United Nations report: Uniting Against Terrorism - recommendations for a global counter-terrorism, released in April 2008, the effectiveness of counter-terrorism initiatives depends largely on the level of cooperation between government forces and local communities. When explaining the influence of counter-terrorism strategies on conditions that are conducive to terrorism, Kofi Annan stated: Past cases show that Governments that resort to excessive use of force and indiscriminate repression when countering terrorism risk strengthening the support base for terrorists among the general population. Such measures generally invite counter-violence, undermine the legitimacy of counter-terrorism measures and play into the hands of terrorists. 
Political factors have pushed Muslim youths to join extremist groups as a counter-reaction to or in retaliation against what they see as ‘collective punishment’ driven by a misguided perception around the world, Kenya included, that all Muslims are terrorists or potential terrorists. Since the anti-terrorist campaign began in Kenya following the US embassy bombings in 1998, many Muslim youths have been arbitrarily arrested and incarcerated on suspicion of being engaged in terrorist activities, which is part of a wider pattern that intensified after the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001.

Increasingly, governments in Africa are ignoring the real issues affecting youth- unemployment and poverty-and and in fact encouraging anger and hatred among such youth who are already burdened with lack of basic needs and services.

Fighting insecurity and terrorism requires efforts from all people including citizens of any country and whenever citizens do not trust their government and the police, community policing will fail and in fact unemployed and poor youth will be lured into terror groups. Governments should increase their intelligence but also focus on more people friendly policies that will make every citizen a partner in the fight against violent extremism.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why I don't care about National Examinations as a way to Evaluate students

For years, many have neglected the huge disparity between industries and the education curriculum. In one of the articles I read recently, Google does not like hiring the so called 'top performers' in school and one of the reasons is that these graduates feel they know so much and hence under-perform in the real world because they don't like learning. More and more of the new progressive companies are looking at other ways to evaluate potential employees and academic performance is reducing its popularity as a determining factor, at a very fast pace. Unfortunately, schools have continued to focus more on academic performance as the key pillar of measuring the potential of students.

Although it is not entirely fair to only look at the world's top innovators and business leaders as a pointer to this growing disparity, every sector in the world is dominated by 'average performers' in school who believe in hard-work and ability to learn as a way to rise to the top.

In Kenya for example, how many of the top performers in business, sports, arts, leadership and other sectors of the economy were the very best students in their 8th grade when they sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education or even in high school when they sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education? It requires no magic to look at the performance of students from early stages of schooling to college and eventually their careers in life. How many students who were the top performers in the country in primary school examinations end up being top students at high school examinations? And how many of these are top performers in college? And how many become the best in their industries or set up successful businesses or even perform well in arts or other fields?
Who among the top CEO's or business people was the best student in primary school, at high school and in college consistently?

I believe it is a high time education world over was re-looked at, and realigned to match with our day to day needs and aspirations. The methods of evaluating students should take into consideration several factors apart from academic performance only. There needs to be more linkage between industry players and schools. Human skills as well as aspects of entrepreneurship should be part of the curriculum.

If employers, innovators, investors, sportsmen, entrepreneurs among others are looking beyond academics in evaluating partners or employees to work with, why should our education systems in many countries continue to put emphasis on academic performance only?