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Nigerian lawyer, Zannah Mustapha wins prestigious UN award for educating children in troubled northeast

Zannah Mustapha with some students of Future Prowess School

A Nigerian lawyer who helped the government secure the release of dozens of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 was on Monday announced the winner of a United Nations prize, for his efforts in providing education to children affected by violence in northeast Nigeria.

Zannah Mustapha, a founder of two schools that offer free education, meals and healthcare to children, won the Nansen Refugee Award, which is bestowed by the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).

The award has in the past been won by notable figures, including the longest ever serving First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt and Graça Machel.

“I am exceedingly happy and motivated to do more … I will scale up my efforts,” a happy Mustapha said after winning the award.

“This school promotes peace,” UNHCR quotes him to say. “It is a place where every child matters.”

“These children shall be empowered in such a way that they can stand on their own.”

Mustapha’s first project, Future Prowess, opened in 2007, and was the only school in Nigeria’s Borno State to remain open after Boko Haram started their brutal terror campaign in 2009, which has killed more than 20,000 people in the Lake Chad 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,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said during the award ceremony.

“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.

In addition to his education work, Mustapha was also instrumental in setting up a cooperative for widows, providing much-needed support for nearly 600 women in Maiduguri.

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