LAGOS – A Nigerian Muslim teacher has won this year’s prestigious UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award in recognition of his efforts to teach orphans of both Islamic fighters and Nigerian army soldiers.
“They are the best of friends,” Zannah Mustapha says of his pupils, the BBC reported on Monday, September 18.
“This should be a template for world peace.”
Mustapha is the founder of one of the few remaining primary schools in Nigeria’s troubled city of Maiduguri.
He also played a crucial role mediating between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram fighters to release 82 so-called Chibok girls.
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 the region,” Mustapha told the BBC’s Newsday program.
He added that the children of a “senior member of the insurgents” were studying there.
The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honors those who give “extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced”.
Boko Haram, a Hausa term meaning “Western education is sinful”, is loosely modeled on Afghanistan’s Taliban.
The militant group says it is fighting enemies who have wronged its members through violence, arrests or economic neglect and corruption.
It has been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and authorities in the north since 2009.
But recently, the sect has carried out attacks against Christians and Muslims alike.