Education initiative aims to counter student radicalisation

Morocco and the European Union (EU) have launched a two-year initiative to enhance tolerance in societies where terrorism and violent extremism exist.

The ‘Education for the Prevention and Countering of Violent Extremism Leading to Terrorism’, which will run from 2023-25, was announced during the 21st meeting of the coordinating committee of the Global Counterterrorism Forum held in Cairo, Egypt, earlier in May.

In a video introducing the initiative, Nasser Bourita, the minister of foreign affairs, African cooperation and Moroccan expatriates in Morocco, said education is a powerful tool to counter radicalism and eradicate extremist ideologies that develop in “precarious environments”.

He added that access to education enables individuals to develop skills that can counter extremist narratives and ideologies, and promote peace.

For his part, Josep Borell Fontelles, a foreign affairs and security representative of the EU, said: “The objective is clear: to help develop societies that are more tolerant and resilient against terrorism and violent extremism.” The EU will be offering financial, technical and educational support.

The EU’s counter-terrorism policy focuses on cooperation with countries most affected by terrorism in the region’s neighbourhood, including North Africa, to improve security inside the EU, according to a March 2023 reportUnderstanding EU Counter-terrorism Policy.

The EU has supported similar initiatives in the Western Balkans, according to a 2023 report titled Dealing with Extremism in an Educational Environment in the Western Balkans. The Western Balkans include countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia.

Morocco is 83rd out of 163 countries listed in the 2023 Global Terrorism Index ahead of Egypt (16), Libya (32), Algeria (37) and Tunisia (40) – underscoring its standing as the safest country in North Africa.

However, Morocco continues to face sporadic threats from small, independent terrorist cells, the majority of them claiming to be inspired by or affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’ish or Daesh , according to Country Reports on Terrorism 2021: Morocco prepared by the United States Department of State.

Combating extremism

Under the initiative, customised training-of-the-trainers programmes will be designed and delivered to educators to build learners’ resilience to violent extremism.

A series of indicators will also be developed and implemented to assist the government’s efforts to monitor and evaluate programmes and policies to prevent and combat violent extremism in the educational space.

Dr El Mostafa Rezrazi, the president of the Moroccan Observatory on Extremism and Violence, told University World News that specialists at Morocco’s universities and higher learning institutions are working on an action plan to implement the initiative.

The initiative will be implemented in partnership with the Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism Hedayah in the United Arab Emirates which supports educational institutions in enhancing youth resilience to violent extremism through specific educational programmes aimed at preventing radicalisation in the student community.

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