Nigeria's Boko Haram crisis: Zannah Mustapha wins UN award

Published
media captionVolunteer school teacher Zannah Mustapha is the winner of the 2017 Nansen Refugee Award.

A teacher who takes in orphans of both Islamist fighters and Nigerian army soldiers has won this year's UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

"They are the best of friends," Zannah Mustapha says of his pupils. "This should be a template for world peace."

Mr Mustapha is the founder of one of the few remaining primary schools in Nigeria's troubled city of Maiduguri.

He also negotiated the release of 82 so-called Chibok girls, kidnapped by Boko Haram.

A former barrister, Mr Mustapha played a crucial role mediating between the Nigerian government and the Islamists for the release of the abducted schoolgirls.

More than 100 of the 276 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok in 2014 are still unaccounted for, and are presumed to still be in the custody of Boko Haram.

image copyrightReuters
image captionMore than 100 'Chibok girls' freed from Nigeria's Boko Haram were reunited with their families last week and will soon return to school

At Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School, the volunteer teacher provides the students with a free education, as well as free meals, uniforms and healthcare.

"We have the largest number of girls in school in the whole of region," Mr Mustapha told the BBC's Newsday programme.

He added that the children of a "senior member of the insurgents" were studying there.

The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honours those who give "extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced".

Previous winners include Graça Machel, Luciano Pavarotti and Eleanor Roosevelt.

"Education is one of the most powerful tools for helping refugee children overcome the horrors of violence and forced displacement," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

"The work [Mr] Mustapha and his team are doing is of the utmost importance."

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

More on this story