Teachers in the Maldives must be educated on how to monitor students for extremist ideologies, according to the first strategy document from the National Counter Terror Centre.
US-based security and risk management consultancy the Soufan Group says around 200 to 250 Maldivians are known to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, making the island nation the highest foreign fighter contributor based on per capita.
However, the government has given lower figures and some officials have sought to downplay the threat posed by jihadis including those returning from battlefields abroad.
There is no mention in the NCTC strategy, published Thursday, about the scale of the problem.
Instead the document gives five “domains” where work will take place to “prevent, resist and counter extremist ideologies, dissuade individuals and groups from embracing such ideologies, redirect such individuals and groups towards productive social engagements, and enable and empower local communities to detect and resist such ideologies”.
In the “education domain” the strategy says critical thinking must be incorporated into the educational methodology.
“Educators and school administrators must be equipped with the right resources to identify indicators and behaviour associated with extremist ideologies within the school environment.
“As part of the education domain, effort must be undertaken to promote inclusive and tolerant views by incorporating it into the national curriculum, and expanding co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.”
Another aspect of the NCTC strategy is formulating “mechanisms and capacities within security and law enforcement agencies to specifically address Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) and Returnees, including family members”.
A slew of Maldivian nationals have been arrested on terror-related offences, but there has yet to be a conviction.
Last month three men charged with travelling abroad with the intent of joining a terror group were acquitted.
The NCTC strategy also involves upholding the country’s “moderate and progressive” Islamic identity, the launch of a national messaging campaign and promoting women and youth entrepreneurship.
The NCTC says it will work with international partners to implement the strategy.
Last year an Indian university was hired by the defence ministry to carry out terrorism awareness and training programmes.
In September US diplomat Alice Wells, speaking in Washington about foreign assistance priorities to maintain influence in South Asia, said working with the Maldives to combat violent extremism remained critically important because of its “grim distinction” in producing more terrorists who had fought in Iraq and Syria than any other country in the world.
However, when contacted by the Maldives Independent, the US embassy in Colombo was unable to say if the NCTC strategy document was a result of its partnership with Malé.