Nigerian man who refused to close down school in North East wins Nansen Refugee Award
By Sewe Ishola
A lawyer and school owner, Zannah Mustapha has been awarded the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Nansen Refugee Award.
Mustapha is the founder of two schools offering free education, meals and healthcare to its pupils, and even enrol children born to Boko Haram fighters to learn alongside those orphaned by the Islamist group’s eight-year insurgency.
“I am exceedingly happy and motivated to do more … I will scale up my efforts,” Mustapha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
“Some of the students that started in my school have graduated, and they are now going into university — I can use this money to help them complete the cycle,” Mustapha added.
Mustapha helped in brokering the deal which led to the release of some of the Chibok Girls abducted by Islamic Sect Boko Haram.
Awarding Mustapha, who is a lawyer from Borno State, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “The work Mustapha and his team are doing is of the utmost importance, helping to foster peaceful coexistence and rebuild communities in northeastern Nigeria. With this award, we honor his vision and service.”
Mustapha, in 2007 founded the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School for orphans and vulnerable children in Maiduguri.
The school provides free education to 540 students, half of which are girls.
According to the UNHCR, children of over four times that number are still on the waiting list.
Mustapha, along with 48 other volunteers, open the school doors every day, despite the ongoing crisis. The students receive free uniforms, and healthcare.
Mustapha, in an interview with UNHCR, said: “This is the place where every child matters, no matter what religion, background or culture. Our aim is make positive changes in their lives.”
Nansen Refugee Award bestowed by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) recognizes extraordinary humanitarian work on behalf of refugees and internally displaced people.