For children in Northern Nigeria, attorney and humanitarian Zannah Mustapha is a name that encapsulates a hero because of his commitment to spreading the word that education, regardless of what is taking place in Nigeria, is the key to freedom for kids.

He founded three schools known as Future Prowess Islamic Foundation in Maiduguri. And his staff has educated over 2,000 children, despite Nigeria’s troubles, especially when it comes to Boko Haram.   “We are in a community where every segment of the society is being ravaged,” Mustapha told CNN.

For many months, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a shutdown; however, this hadn’t stopped Boko Haram from killing thousands, including teachers and kidnapping students. “Most of these children came from a very difficult background. Most of them saw when their parents were killed. They are confused and in a helpless state,” Mustapha said.

Mustapha started his journey in 2007, helping 36 children. His passion and message have resonated so much that he has provided education for thousands upon thousands of kids, of which 1,023 graduated and have enrolled in college.  

Zannah Mustapha and the students of the Future Prowess School he founded for children caught up in the Boko Haram conflict. This week he won a U.N. prize for his efforts.

Mustapha doesn’t focus exclusively on education, but instead, he takes a multidimensional approach in tackling the social and economic issues that many of his students’ families face. 

“In the traditional African setting, when the husband dies, the wife is as vulnerable as the child,” Mustapha said. “So, we created the widows program and give them life skills such as tailoring, (jewelry) making, and then a host of other activities.”

As an outgrowth of being a natural leader and pacemaker, Mustapha told CNN that he wants Nigerians to make concerted efforts to keep the needs of children at the forefront.  “What keeps me going is the resilience of these children. Whenever I see their faces, it gives me hope. It keeps my dream alive,” he said.

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