NAIROBI, July 10 (Xinhua) -- African governments should invest in basic education and vocational training for the youth to shield them from the allure of terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the continent, experts said on Wednesday.
The experts, who spoke on the sidelines of a Pan African conference on countering terrorism, said that education can be an effective tool of empowering vulnerable youth at risk of being recruited by militants.
Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, director of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Regional Office for Eastern Africa, said that eradicating illiteracy among African youth will boost the war against terrorism.
"Educating African youth and providing them with lie-long skills is critical to prevent them from joining extremist groups," said Ndong-Jatta.
"The new curriculum for schools should therefore be at the forefront of efforts to cushion marginalized youth from radicalization," she added.
Kenya is hosting the inaugural African regional high-level conference on counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism attended by senior policymakers, scholars and peace advocates.
Experts said that African countries should leverage on non-military interventions such as education and employment for the youth to achieve success in the war against terrorism.
Yumiko Yokozeki, director of UNESCO affiliated International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa, said that governments should invest in literacy programs for under-privileged youth to ensure they participate in promotion of peace and cohesion.
"Studies have shown that schools can be effective avenues for implementing deradicalization programs across Africa," said Yokozeki, adding that providing African youth with social skills is key to dissuade them from joining terrorist networks.
Dorah Kitala, peace education coordinator at Kenya's ministry of education, said the allure of violent extremism is gradually fading in marginalized regions thanks to rollout of mass literacy and awareness programs targeting the youth.
"Access to basic education has helped the country win the war against violent extremism, especially in the coastal and northern region hotspots," said Kitala.
She said Kenya has adopted best international practices to tackle radicalization of youth through persuasion and economic empowerment as opposed to military force.