Nigerian teacher Zannah Mustapha wins 2017 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

Mr Mustapha and his students
Mr Mustapha and the students of Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School (I) before morning assembly, Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. © UNHCR/Rahima Gambo

The 2017 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award winner has been announced as Mr. Zannah Mustapha, a lawyer, school-founder and peace-maker from north east Nigeria. He will receive a commemorative medal and a US$150,000 monetary prize to fund a project which complements his existing work.

UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award recognizes extraordinary humanitarian work on behalf of refugees, internally displaced or stateless people. Named in memory of Mr. Fridtjof Nansen (a Norwegian scientist, explorer and humanist, and the first ever High Commissioner for refugees), the award is funded in partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Swiss Government, The Norwegian Government and the IKEA Foundation.

In 2007, Mustapha founded the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School, a faith based school providing free education to Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Maiduguri – regardless of which side of the conflict they come from. Currently having 540 students aged between three and eight years, the school has bravely stayed open regardless of the Boko Haram insurgency.

He opened a second school in 2016 to cater for the thousands of children on the waiting list to get an education, and a third school is now being built to enrol mature students who have missed out on their education due to the conflict.

Mustapha was also instrumental in negotiating the release of hostages, including 21 young women who had been in captivity for almost two years, and 82 Chibok girls in May 2017. He assisted in setting up a cooperative to support about 600 women in Maiduguri as well.

The award will be presented during a ceremony to hold on 2 October in Geneva, Switzerland. Mr. Mustapha will join a list of distinguished laureates like Eleanor Roosevelt, Graça Machel and Luciano Pavarotti.