NIGERIA POLITICS: Zannah Mustapha Wins UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award for Mediating in Chibok Girls Release from Boko Haram Deal

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By Politicoscope September 18, 2017 10:59

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Hauwa Madu, 13, is among the displaced children at the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School. Three years ago, Boko Haram gunmen stormed her small home in a northeast village near Damboa and killed her father three years ago. Her mother, who was pregnant, died in childbirth soon after.

“When I think about my parents I become sad, I miss them,” Hauwa recounted in a recent interview with UNHCR, as tears rolled down her cheeks. “This school is really like my home now. I can think of tomorrow again because of what Mustapha has done for us here.”

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NIGERIA POLITICS: Zannah Mustapha Wins UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award for Mediating in Chibok Girls Release from Boko Haram Deal

Zannah Mustapha, a champion for the rights of displaced children growing up amid violence in north-eastern Nigeria to get a quality education, has been named the 2017 winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award.

Mustapha founded a school in 2007 in Maiduguri – the capital of Borno State and the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency. The school has stayed open throughout the conflict with Boko Haram, which has seen some 20,000 killed across the Lake Chad region, and millions more displaced.

The school provides a free education, as well as free meals, uniforms and health care, to children affected by violence. Those orphaned by the conflict on both sides are welcomed into Mustapha’s classrooms as a sign of the reconciliation he hopes to achieve in the region.

“Conflict can leave children with physical and emotional scars that are deep and lasting. It forces them from their homes, exposes them to unspeakable atrocities, and often rips apart their families,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“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,” Grandi added. “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.”

The announcement of this year’s Nansen Refugee Award winner by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, comes as tens of thousands of Nigerian youth are growing up without an education. The country’s education sector is strained by its expanding youth population, and facilities in the north-east remain under attack by Boko Haram, who have destroyed schools and killed teachers.

“Schools lie at the heart of a society. Destroying them crushes the chance of Nigeria’s next generation succeeding,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary General Jan Egeland, whose organization co-manages the Nanson Refugee Award project. “The recognition of Zannah Mustapha’s brave work highlights the importance of education for the future of Nigeria.”

In the decade since its inception, the school has swelled from 36 students to 540. Desperate for an education, thousands more children have added their names to its waiting list. In 2016, Mustapha opened a second school just a few kilometres away from the first. Eighty-eight children, all of whom have fled conflict in the region, walk through its classroom doors each day.

Mustapha’s work in the region also includes negotiating the release of hostages. When the 21 young women who had been held captive for more than two years were released, Mustapha was there. He had been instrumental in securing their freedom – as well as the release of 82 additional Chibok girls in May 2017.

Mustapha and his volunteer group of educators know the risks they face, but their work is too important not to soldier on. “This school promotes peace,” Mustapha said. “It is a place where every child matters,” he added. “These children shall be empowered, empowered in such a way that they can stand on their own.”

In addition to his education work, Mustapha has demonstrated a commitment to helping all parts of society affected by conflict. His support was instrumental in setting up a cooperative for widows, providing much-needed support for nearly 600 women in Maiduguri.

UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced, and names Eleanor Roosevelt, Graça Machel and Luciano Pavarotti among its laureates. The 2017 ceremony will be held on 2 October in Geneva, Switzerland.

– UNHCR


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Politicoscope
By Politicoscope September 18, 2017 10:59

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Since You’re Here, We Would Like to ask You for Help

There are more readers worldwide reading the Politicoscope daily news content than ever before. Unlike many other news media organisations that charge their readers subscription fees for the same daily news content and features we offer you for free, we do not charge all our readers to pay any fee. We depend on online advertising to generate the revenues to fund all these great news content and exclusive features provided to you for free. Currently, advertising revenues are quickly falling which is affecting our ability to offer you free online news content.
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"I visit Politicoscope everyday to read my daily news in world politics. I'm glad it's all for free. On my part, I'm happy to donate monthly so as to continue enjoying these free content because it's actually a small amount from me compared to paid subscriptions by other news organisations. I want to help Politicoscope grow more so that I and other readers can continue to have access to free and exclusive daily online news." - Denise H., from LA, USA.
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