Zannah Mustapha, a quietly spoken 58-year-old lawyer who has been named the 2017 winner of UNHCR’s prestigious Nansen Refugee Award.
A former barrister turned property developer, Mustapha set up the school for orphans and vulnerable children in 2007. He was concerned by the growing numbers of children on the streets of the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri – the heart of an insurgency which has killed an estimated 20,000 people and displaced some 2.3 million others.
He feared growing insecurity and the ensuing military crackdown was producing a generation of children with no education and that this would in turn create even more problems for one of the poorest regions of the country.
“There were children everywhere, on the streets all alone… If they have no education what will happen to them… I kept wondering what would happen to my daughter if I died, who would pay for her education? I realized I had to act,” he added.
“When I was a young man growing up you did not see this sort of thing. The family looked after orphans, but this has become more and more difficult.”
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) September 18, 2017