Educate children on terrorism - Security expert urges government

BY: Rebecca Kwei

The Director of the Africa Centre for Security and Counterterrorism, Mr Emmanuel Kotin, has urged the government to use the Ministry of Education to design programmes aimed at educating children and young people on the phenomenon of terrorism.

He explained that when children knew about terrorism as they grew, it would be difficult for anyone to deceive or coerce them into it.

“Government should not shy away from the idea terrorism is not about children. Security has become sophisticated and now a shared responsibility and it is about time we make children also play their part in the security architecture” he told the Junior Graphic in an interview.

Mr Kotin said the threats of terrorism in the country were real and everyone had to be proactive to prevent any possible attacks by terrorists.

Terrorism consists of the systematic or planned use of violence or the threat of violence towards civilians, groups or societies, with the intent to kill, injure, harm, coerce or intimidate through fear and terror.

“If you look at our neighbours, terrorism is knocking at our door because the symptoms that give rise to terrorist attacks in our neighbouring countries, we have the same conditions here with us, he said.”

 He said terrorism recruitment normally targeted the youth and if they had an understanding of what was happening, they would grow up very conscious of the phenomenon and it would be very hard for terrorist recruiters to attract them.

See something, say something campaign

The Ministry for National Security recently launched a citizens awareness campaign aimed at protecting the country against terror attacks.

The campaign, dubbed: “See something, say something”, encourages the public to be vigilant and report suspicious characters and their activities to the security agencies.

As part of the campaign, a toll-free number — 999 — has been provided for citizens to swiftly report suspicious activities to state security authorities or use the emergency contacts and social media platforms of the Ghana Police Service to draw the attention of state agencies to unusual activities within their communities.

Mr Kotin said more often than not, there had not been any programme targeting children on what they needed to do when they were confronted with situations where people tried to brainwash them into thinking in a particular way.

He explained that children were moulded from three different fronts, namely the family, religion, and peers, through education. He noted that the family was critical in forming children’s opinions because they (children) spent more time at home.

Mr Kotin said currently, children were exposed to a lot of things through social media which generated their curiosity and the family must understand that and ‘empathise’ with them. For instance, he said when watching television, parents tended to switch off or prevent their children from watching a violent scene.

However, Mr Kotin, said the best thing was for parents to allow children to watch to satisfy their curiosity and then explain the situation and reassure them that it was normal and that was the new reality confronting the world.

He asked parents not to pass stereotype statements, particularly about certain religious people associated with terrorism.

That, he said, would have a lasting effect on the child as he or she grew up.

Responsible parenting

Mr Kotin said parents must also be mindful of the friends of their children because most children picked bad behaviours from their peers as well as take an interest in their children’s friends’ families.

Furthermore, he said the economic pressures on families compelled them to neglect certain duties they felt were not relevant to the growth of the child but it was important for parents not to fail in their responsibilities because if they failed they were letting the children who were the future leaders down.

Mr Kotin noted that mostly terrorist recruiters used economic hardship to entice young people; that was why children from most vulnerable homes got attracted to terrorism.

He said it was for that reason parents had to meet the basic needs of their children so they did not fall for such enticement.

He advised young people to be careful of strangers and not take offers from them, and when they suspected anything suspicious around their neighbourhood they should report to their parents.

Parents, he said, should be concerned about the activities of children on the Internet and social media and also put security features on phones, iPad, laptops, computers, or any gadgets children used so that they would not be able to stray into shady Internet sites or speak with strangers.