Barrister Zannah Mustapha has won this year’s Nansen Refugee Award. The Nansen Refugee Award is awarded annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to a group, individual or organization in recognition of their outstanding service to the cause of refugees, displaced or stateless people.
How did a Barrister from Nigeria come to win the Nansen Refugee Award?
Well, Barrister Zannah Mustapha is also the founder of the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School. The school was established in Nigeria’s conflict-ridden Maiduguri and takes in orphans of both Islamist Boko Haram fighters and Nigerian army soldiers.
Zannah Mustapha was also vital in brokering the deal to release 82 of the so-called Chibok girls, kidnapped by Boko Haram. After the Boko Haram Insurgency erupted in 2009 he was able to offer admission to the children of soldiers and government officials killed by the militants, as well as those of militants killed by the state.
He partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide free meals for the students and the ICRC later extended the services to the mothers, providing them free food and other items every month.
The Barrister also encouraged parents to form an association which would reach out to other widows and convince them to send their children to his school. The Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School started with 36 children but by 2015 it had already grown to cater to over 400 orphans.
As part of the objective of the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School was to prepare the orphans for effective integration into the society, he ensured that his children and those of the teachers enrol their children in the school.
According to him;
“They [the children] eat and do everything together and the wisdom is that if I did not put my children here, then there would be no commitment towards the project. Our ultimate goal is to give the orphans the best and to prevent them from being stigmatized by mixing them with our children. The orphans don’t feel that they were neglected; that is the kind of mentorship we are giving them.”
Barrister Zannah Mustapha has shown incredible bravery and dedication in his attempts to rehabilitate these orphaned children even with little support from the Nigerian government and for that, he is certainly a worthy recipient of the Nansen Refugee Award.