The Director, Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School, Zannah Mustapha, has won the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) 2017 Nansen Refugees Award.

Mustapha, the first Nigerian Laureate of the award, was chosen for his humanitarian works in championing the rights of children.

UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugees Council said on Monday that Mustapha’s NGO not only provides education for children but also caters to the needs of orphans, widows and abandoned children affected by the Boko Haram's insurgency.

In a statement issued in Geneva on Monday, Mr Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said: “Education is one of the most powerful tools for helping refugee children overcome the horrors of violence and forced displacement.

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“It empowers young people, equips them with skills and works to counter exploitation and recruitment by armed groups.

“Conflict can leave children with physical and emotional scars that are deep and lasting as it forces them from their homes, exposes them to unspeakable atrocities and often rips apart their families.

“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 services,” Grandi said.

Mustapha told NAN that founded his NGO in 2007 to provide free education, meals, uniforms and healthcare to children and orphans among others, in an effort to engender peace and reconciliation.

“We started with 36 students and have graduated more than 1,000 students; enrolled 626 in 2017, more than half of whom are girls, including 186 IDPs with 5,000 on the waiting list.

“These children include children from both the military and the Boko Haram and they have grown to see themselves as one.

“If it continues like this, then we are sure of peaceful reconciliation and an end to the insurgency,” Mustapha said.

The 2017 Nansen Refugees Award will be presented to Mustapha on October 2, in Geneva.

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