- Written by Silvia Mwendia for Kenyakidz
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” These words spoken by Indian revolutionary leader Mahatma Gandhi, still ring true to Ayub Mohamud who has become among the first Kenyans to be nominated for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize.
The Global Teacher Prize is an annual award given to an outstanding teacher who also inspires their students.
“We seek to celebrate the best teachers, those who inspire their students and community around them,” said the Varkey Foundation who started the competition.
Now in its second year, the contest sees two Kenyans who have made it to the Top 50 finalists for the first time, one of them who is Eastleigh High School teacher, Ayub Mohamud.
Growing up in North Eastern Kenya, Ayub dreamed of being a teacher in a bid to alleviate the problems faced by his community.
It this this desire to help others that has seen Ayub get involved in community work, with the most prominent being Teachers Against Violent Extremism (TAVE).
Formed in 2013 TAVE hopes to help nip extremism in the bud before it becomes a wider problem.
“At TAVE we make use of our influence as teachers to inform the students about the dangers of extremism,” said Ayub.
Through TAVE, Ayub has been able to recruit 50 teachers who through an annual conference, discuss and share lessons on how to curb violent extremism.
The idea to start TAVE was influenced by Ayub’s experience while teaching in Garissa.
“I have lived in areas where extremism has infiltrated the community and I know what damage it can do,” said Ayub.
“During my 10 year tenure in North Eastern, I worked in Garissa which in 2012 had begun to have a lot of grenade attacks. When I was working in the school late at night I could gunshots. Travelling also became an issue and there was not much business activity,” said Ayub.
Having already been transferresd to Eastleigh High, the Westgate Attack in 2013 was the final straw that pushed him to start TAVE.
“After the attack we kept on hearing a lot of reports of students disappearing or being linked to terrorist groups so I felt I had to do something,”said Ayub.
Through forums and classroom discussions, TAVE has been able to come up with a lesson plan on violent extremism which was included in the Islamic Religious Education (IRE) curriculum.
Thanks to TAVE, Ayub has been able to win various other accolades and speaking engagements.
“Since 2014, I have been speaking at the Global Counterterrorism Forum as a change agent in a bid to change extremism ideology,” said Ayub.
Ayub’s greatest joy however comes from being able to change the mindsets of students who may be considering joining an extremist group.
“Most of these children are innocent and talk out of anger but through these classroom dialogues we are able to make the see that extremism is not the way out,” said Ayub.
Through Community Development Initiative (CODI), another organisation Ayub founded in 2013, he has been able to mobilize students to take action against terrorism.
“Following the Westgate Attack we at Eastleigh High School held a peace walk to show our solidarity for those killed and injured. We also work with the police to exchange information to prevent terrorist attacks,” he said.
Teachers from public schools are not among the best paid in the country while others even have unpaid salaries. Ayub’s passion for preventing radicalization among the youth stems from a place deeper than monetary worth.
“Children are an important part of our society. If I do not do this, then we will have a very powerful part of our society being lost to violent extremism. If students are empowered then they will not be recruited,” said Ayub.
With the announcement of the GTP winner only a few weeks away, Ayub no doubt hopes to win the $1m which will be put back into the community organisations he runs.
“I hope to expand the TAVE network to move online and also avail scholarships,” said Ayub
Through the prize money, he would also like to mentor as many students as possible to take up teaching so that a teaching crisis such as the one that happened in Garissa last year does not repeat itself.
Even in his wildest dreams, Ayub had never imagined that teaching would take him this far. Aside from the glitz and glamour of global recognition for his efforts, it is the passion he has for young people that keeps him going-a passion he hopes to ignite in the hearts of other youth.