The UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency on Monday announced a Nigerian teacher Zannah Mustapha winner of 2017 UN prize worth 150,000(N54 million) for refusing to shut down his two schools which offer free education for both boys and girls despite several Boko Haram attacks.
Zannah Mustapha a lawyer in Borno State is also credited for mediating in the negotiation of the released of Chibok girls from Boko Haram captivity, joined previous winners United State politician, diplomat and activist Eleanor Roosevelt and Italian Luciano Pavarotti.
Mustapha founded his school in 2007 in Maiduguri providing free meals, uniforms, and health care, to children caught up in conflict in the north-east of Nigeria
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. described Mustapha achievements as remarkable, “Those orphaned by the conflict on both sides are welcomed into Mustapha’s classrooms as a sign of the reconciliation he hopes to achieve in the region, ”
“Education is one of the most powerful tools for helping refugee children overcome the horrors of violence and forced displacement. It empowers young people, equips them with skills and works to counter exploitation and recruitment by armed groups,” Grandi added.
“The work Mustapha and his team are doing is of the utmost importance, helping to foster a peaceful coexistence and rebuild communities in north-eastern Nigeria. With this award, we honor his vision and service.”
Speaking with UNHCR about his achievement he said, ” His school is a place where every child matters no matter the religion, background or culture, our aim is to make positive changes in their lives.
A former barrister turned property developer, Mustapha set up the school after growing concerns on the numbers of children on the streets of the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri – the heart of an insurgency which has killed an estimated 20,000 people and displaced some 2.3 million others.
“When I was a young man growing up you did not see this sort of thing. The family looked after orphans, but this has become more and more difficult.”
With the help and support of a small group of friends with whom he regularly used to play table tennis, his favorite hobby, he decided to create the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation to house a school and other charitable bodies to help the victims of all sides of the insurgency.
The school today has over 540 pupils, of whom 282 are girls. There is a waiting list of another 2,000. In the headmaster’s office, piles of applications are stacked together in one corner.
Mustapha will be presented with his award in Geneva early next month.