In late 2013 schools in Nairobi, especially in Eastleigh, were targets for recruitment by Al-Shabaab terror group.
However, one teacher, Mr Ayub Mohamud, of Eastleigh High School, understood the threat and started lessons to counter religious extremism.
For that daunting but insightful task, Mr Mohamud is now among the top 10 finalists for the profession’s topmost award — the Global Teachers’ Prize — whose take-home package is Sh102 million.
Mr Mohamud, who has been at the school for three years, could be named the world’s most exceptional teacher this year, in an event set for March 13, this year in Abu Dhabi.
Mr Mohamud, who teaches business studies and Islamic religious education, says he is excited about the recognition.
“My desire as a teacher has been to ensure that students leave school and become better members of the society.
“I was late in applying for the best teacher last year but this time I made sure I put in my application on time,” said the teacher.
He established Teachers Against Violent Extremism, an anti-terror network, and is the patron of a grassroots youth empowerment initiative.
Mr Mohamud has also helped implement engagement programmes in schools and developed a lesson plan teachers can use to incorporate de-radicalisation messages into key subjects such as Islamic Religious Education.
The top 10 teachers were chosen from among 8,000 applications across 147 countries.
Mr Mohamud said he decided to become a teacher so that he could be part of the solution to perennial teachers’ shortage in northern Kenya.
After university, he taught for seven years in the region before being moved to Nairobi.
“In Eastleigh, there was a lot of radicalisation, violent extremism and grenade attacks. As a teacher, I realised that the school was part of the community,” said Mr Mohamud.
Mr Mohamud is also passionate about innovation, design and creativity.
He tries to equip students with the skills to become successful social entrepreneurs.
Other teachers in the finalists’ race are Hanan Al Hroun and Aqeela Asifi (both of Pakistan), Robin Chaurasiya (India), Joe Fatheree (USA), Colin Hegarty (UK), Richard Johnson (Australia), Marit Rossi (Finland, Michael Sokil (USA) and Kazuya Takahashi (Japan).
The first winner of the Prize in 2015 was American teacher Nancie Atwell, who donated the $1m prize money to a school she set up in Maine in the US.