Nigerian teacher wins United Nations humanitarian award

Nigerian teacher wins United Nations humanitarian award. Photographer, Rahima Gambo

Zannah Mustapha, a volunteer teacher, has been announced the winner of this year’s UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

The award recognizes his efforts in providing education to children affected by the ongoing conflict in Maiduguri, Borno state.

According to the UNCHR website, Mr. Mustapha setup the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School during the violent crisis in the northeast, providing ‘free education, free meals, uniforms and healthcare to children affected by violence.’

In a decade since its inception, the school has seen an increase in attendance from 36 students to 450 students, including the children of a “senior member of the insurgents.”

This has necessitated the opening of a second school, just a few kilometres away from the first.

Zannah Mustapha with his students. Credit – UNHCR

Zannah Mustapha with his students. Credit – UNHCR

“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,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“The work Mustapha and his team are doing is of the utmost importance, helping to foster peaceful coexistence and rebuild communities in north-eastern Nigeria. With this award, we honour his vision and service,” he added.

As a former barrister, Mr. Mustapha was also recognized for his role in negotiating the release of 82 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

The Nansen Refugee Award honours those who give “extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced” and it comes with a $150,000 prize to fund a project complementing their existing work.

According to Ventures Africa, ‘Last year, he was a finalist for the 2016 Robert Burns humanitarian award. He also received the 2017 Aurora Prize Modern Day Hero award, for those whose “life and actions guarantee the safe existence of others”.’

Mr. Mustapha will be presented with his award at ceremony in Geneva on 2 October.

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