It cannot be denied, the importance of preventing and countering violent extremism, especially in a society where anyone can access messages full of hate. To Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) — an entity linked to the European Commission and created to prevent and combat violent extremism —education is one of the main allies in this mission. To emphasize the relevance of educating young people
against extremism, on June 2019 Lynn Davies and Zubeda Limbada from RAN published the article “Education and radicalisation prevention: Different ways governments can support schools and teachers in preventing/countering violent extremism”, which explores the needs, difficulties and complexities of using education to P/CVE (preventing and countering violent extremism).
The article aims to examine how governments have supported P/CVE programmes in schools in the European Member States. Researchers conducted a survey with the European Member States and although only seven of them answered it, the article presents interesting findings.
The needs of education in P/CVE are framed in four main areas: financing, training, knowledge and information, and “moral” support. The first two are linked since money is needed not only to add prevention activities to the curriculum but also to prepare practitioners to detect and intervene when facing signs of radicalisation. In the last two areas, these professionals must be instructed about their legal obligations to justice departments and how they can properly address issues such as citizenship, polarisation, and migration.
Countries such as Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands, and Sweden reported in the surveys the obstacles to P/CVE projects in schools. Polarisation and division were mentioned not only inside the classroom but also from a broader perspective. Many teachers also find it difficult to lecture about sensitive issues due to concerns about what can be considered freedom of speech and what can be understood as hate speech. It is also true that difficulties differ from school to school, turning it almost impossible to compare P/CVE projects undertaken in different states.
The article reinforces the importance of establishing partnerships between government, police, social services, and school to ensure the success of P/CVE projects. Miss Davis and Miss Limbada underscore strategies that can be adopted to help prevent and counter violent extremism. National action plans are effective in providing financial support to schools, especially if they are connected to other national policies.
Moreover, such practices must be continuous and preventive work should never be underestimated. In many European schools, violent extremism is not perceived as a real threat even though some scholars have already identified a connection between extremist groups and polarisation. Besides training teachers and practitioners to know how to identify early signs of radicalisation and properly address the issue, schools should also establish protocols to be followed in situations of violent extremism.
Overall, by presenting details of P/CVE programmes undertaken in different European countries, the article states clear how education must be understood from a broader perspective, which goes beyond classroom´s walls. There are still numerous barriers when it comes to expanding P/CVE practices to other countries but if multiple stakeholders decide to work together, it is possible to envisage a society that knows how it feels to live without fear (fear of being perceived as the “other”, fear of being judged by its opinions, fear of being targeted due to its physical characteristics, religion, culture). When hatred faces union, it retreats. The message of the RAN article is clear: education alone is insufficient. But if we work together, we can heal the world.
For more information, access: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/radicalisation_awareness_network/education-and-radicalisation-prevention-different-ways-governments-can-support-schools_en
Ana Beatriz Brito Rodriguez (Brazil – UFRJ)