Terrorism has grown despite efforts from the government to deter it. This growth has been fueled in part by the terrorists increased ability to plan and execute attacks. Students with technical skills from educational institutions have been recruited, which has accelerated their growth. Studies have found that, while education does not appear to be directly linked to extremist activities, many terrorists are well educated on an individual level, and that terrorists are increasingly using institutions of higher learning and secondary schools to recruit new members. According to a January 7, 2016 article in the West Publishers, Kenya's National Intelligence Service (NIS) assessment of security in the education sector revealed a steady increase in educated university students being lured into terror groups, allowing them to easily penetrate higher learning institutions to recruit, train, and indoctrinate their new followers.
This observation is confirmed by Ahmad Iman Ali alias Abu Zinira, a former Engineering graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology who became an al Shabaab leader in 2012, and a University of Nairobi's law school dropout who was one of the assailants at Garissa University attack in April 2015. The West publisher’s article also stated that, students are drawn to terror groups for a variety of reasons, including a monthly pay, a list of spiritual and economic rewards, and the care of their families. This rising tendency of extremist groups recruiting and distributing propaganda in higher education institutions has a negative impact on the achieved success in the fight against terrorism. As a result, we need to understand why students are a target and what can be done to improve the situation.
Firstly, frustration over failure to secure jobs has increased students’ vulnerability to recruitment. Extremists usually entice students by promising them financial security and a life of luxury, which is difficult to reject in most situations. This is worrisome since securing employment in many African countries is a challenge and many new graduates can only find low-wage employment in the informal sector.
Secondly, the availability of modern technology, which has made communication and access to information simpler, has made it easier for terrorist groups to target skilled youth from higher education institutions. Terrorist organizations have acquired new opportunities as a result of the increased usage of social media. They target students because they utilize social media extensively and are the right age to recruit.
Thirdly, students especially from higher learning institutions offer skilled manpower to terrorist organizations. The groups rely on these students' technological skills to conceal, plan, and enhance their operations. The students are used to, for example, design locally manufactured devices and explosives aimed at damaging physical structures and slaying people.
"Students are drawn to terror groups for a variety of reasons, including a monthly pay, a list of spiritual and economic rewards, and the care of their families..."
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Though learning institutions are doing a good job of equipping the youth with skills that will help them modernize their countries and transform them into industrialized states, terror organizations have regarded these institutions as a potential manpower recruitment hub. Therefore, there are a few options for resolving this situation:
1. Higher learning institutions should invest in providing entrepreneurship classes to students in order to help them develop entrepreneurial skills. These competencies will aid students in developing start-up businesses that will provide them with income in the event that they are unable to find work, minimizing the likelihood that they will be targeted by terrorists for financial gain.
2. Security authorities and tech firms should work together to track students' online activities, which will assist to prevent online collaboration between students and terrorists by flagging any suspicious cites connected to terrorism.
3. Students must strengthen their resilience and patriotism in order to reduce the possibilities of being enticed into joining a terror organization or participating with the group by sharing their expertise and knowledge gained in higher education institutions.
4. The government should play a vital role in ensuring that educational institutions have taken significant steps to secure both students and facilities against terrorist attacks. There will be no place for terrorists to grow as a result of this.
5. Educational institutions should install biometrics systems at the entrance and in classrooms to prevent intruders from getting access and exploiting the system by radicalizing innocent learners.