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Al-Shabaab & The Evolving Status of Education (Accessibility) in Conflicts

In today's world where globalisation has allowed an almost surveillance-like real-time insight into every country due to interconnected forms of fast media, perception and optics matter a lot, especially when it's largely oppressors trying to mend their image post or mid-conflict.

One example is that of the Taliban pledging the all-girls in school slogan, before shortly backtracking on it owing to certain internal issues. The initial pledge has been part of the Taliban's reprogrammed efforts at establishing itself as an ideologically centre-right political entity, ultimately shedding the brutality that marks their past, with usurping girls' right to education usually being one of their primary objectives, recounted too often. A similar event sprung up to the attention of the media lately.

Al-Shabaab is one of the most vicious terrorist rebel organisations in Somalia, Somaliland and the Horn of Africa. It has repeatedly involved itself in concerted efforts with Boko Haram, the terrorist group notorious for kidnapping more than 250 Chibok school-girls, towards establishing an ideological and political dominance in the region. Recently, a documentary (linked at the end) filmed by Channel 4's Jamal Osman provided a detailed (yet importantly guided) insight into Al-Shabaab territory. While in the documentary we see many similar incidents of face-saving and false narratives being purported, one distinct section that is particularly impactful is when the correspondent visits a local school, where young children, with the group's emblem tied to their heads, recite the Quran -- an act of strong ideological brainwashing, as it cuts directly to a woman teaching Computer Science to young girls in a fully-equipped computer lab in a school with the narrator detailing how women in Al-Shabaab are actually encouraged to become educated and contribute to the economy. They aren't even as strict about the burka as the other groups, just barely encouraging of it instead of enforcing it.

Herein, upon some reflection, we must understand that we have no real basis to actually contradict the larger response. Education in a conflict situation might just be encouraged for girls, instead of it all just being a farce for the cameras. While at the same time, school children might not just be indoctrinated about jihad in their Quran lessons. This is why we see a lot of critique of imperialist institutions and democracy and NGOs in the video, It hints at the fact that at the turn of this era, perhaps now access to education just might be encouraged considering its ability to allow a better ideological reframing of the state as being anti-Islamic and repressive. Just pure education doesn't necessarily help you be a pacifist, dozens of Western-educated fighters joined ISIS after all. Or it might just be a farce after all, who knows? But my contention is that there now exists an evolving relationship of education within the conflict, which merits further consideration.

(Clip of schools within Al-Shabaab territories starts at around 9:50)

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