Spotlight on Nigerian Man Making a Difference in the Lives of Borno Children Affected by Boko Haram Terrorism
When the history of the Boko Haram insurgency is told, one of the catastrophic aftermaths is how it turned the lives of many children upside down. Apart from stopping the educational pursuits of many children in Borno state when it started, some children suffered forceful abduction and enslavement at the hands of the terrorist group.
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Some children had their parents killed, abducted, or maime'd by the insurgents. So many children have therefore been orphaned by the insurgency.
The attacks on children and the destabilization of their lives came to a head in 2014 when 276 school girls were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state.
Although some of the students were later rescued through a negotiated release, since that time, schools have continued to be attacked by terrorists and bandits.
Hope comes from Zannah Mustapha
Yet, in the face of the assault on children's right to education by the insurgents, one man named Zannah Mustapha offered a lot of hope when in 2007, he set out to educate children orphaned by the crisis and other misfortunes.
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In a chat with Legit.ng, Zannah Mustapha painted a grim picture of how the terrorist group negatively impacted the areas where they rained terror on the people.
"One thing the Boko Haram rebels brought to the fore is the destructive nature of its activities. It destroyed the basic fibre of society and the commonality within society, and the relationship between the various religions and tribes. It battered the roots of society with destructive tendencies of fighting the only conduits that light the future, which is education."
In 2007, Zanah Mustapha, a lawyer, set up the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation in Maiduguri to cater for orphaned children free of charge. The foundation owns a school which offers free education to vulnerable children.
Mustapha offers education to orphaned children
However, he expanded the scope of the school to accommodate children whose lives were nearly ruined when the Boko Haram insurgency broke out in 2009.
He told Legit.ng:
"I established a foundation called the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation in 2007 with 36 orphans. The aim is to give support services to these orphans and the vulnerable children in Maiduguri."
He said the scope had to expand after the Boko Haram insurgency created a humanitarian disaster in the once peaceful state.
"In 2009, the insurgency cropped up, and a lot of the Boko Haram elements were killed, and we felt we have to enrol the victims of the insurgency into our foundation as our main aim is to carter for orphans."
The most amazing thing about the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation is that it caters for everyone, including children of the insurgents themselves.
Mustapha told Legit.ng about this:
"They include the orphans of Boko Haram and the military they fight and those that are cut up in the fight. These include Christian children.
"We also have orphans of natural causes. Orphans of Boko Haram, the military they fight, my biological children and the children of the teachers and those with missing parents."
Zannah Mustapha offers hope to widows
Another group that suffered a severe blow in the face of the insurgency are women. Many of them lost their husbands or means of livelihood and were forced into widowhood. Mustapha told Legit.ng that the foundation also catered for this group.
"In traditional African society, when the husband dies, the widow is as vulnerable as the orphans. So you need to bring the home and the school in one page. Hence we established the widow program to support the widows in their livelihood and skills acquisition for them to support the child to come to school."
How Mustapha ran the school without collecting fees
The school, which was established in Maiduguri, was completely free as no fees were charged. Legit.ng asked Mustapha how he has been able to run the school without collecting fees, he had this to say:
"Ever since we established the foundation, we have never collected any fees in whatever name."
However, he confirmed that he had been supported by the government and its agencies, including international humanitarian organisations.
"I have support from the government and its agencies like the North East Development Commission, the UNHCR, ICRC and several other goodwills."
When asked what motivated him to establish the school in the epicentre of the insurgency, Mustapha said he had no other motivation other than to do good and to give back to society.
"I don’t have any motivation other than the pride to do good. After all, I was trained with no single kobo of my parents to be a lawyer, and I felt it was time to give it back to society."
Running the found has been challenging, says Mustapha
Raising orphans at a time akin to a war period is, of course, not a tea party. Mustapha has confirmed that it has been a challenging task. He also said a lot of progress was recorded by the foundation in the of the challenges.
"The progress is as enormous as the challenges themselves, but thanks to God. I have been recognized worldwide virtually, getting almost all known awards across the globe and a National Honour in 2022."
What next for the Future Prowess School?
The Future Prowess School is still standing and fulfilling the dreams of the founder. But Mustapha explained to Legit.ng that the school is now run by the community with the foundation as trustees.
"In 2023, we called all the widows and parents of these orphans and the vulnerable children. We handed the school to community-based management, where they could pilot the affairs by themselves. They are now charging themselves some tokens to run the school. We are giving them support as trustees of the foundation, but the management is solely theirs."
Awards and recognitions received by Zannah Mustapha
Apart from being a known educator, Mustapha also played a critical role in the release of 103 of the kidnapped Chibok girls.
For his humanitarian activities, Mustapha has been globally recognised. His awards include The Unsung Hero, given by Daily Trust in 2014, the World Humanitarian Award in 2016, and UNHCR’s Annual Nansen Award 2017, among others.
Physically challenged lady gets special treatment
In a related story, Legit.ng reported that a physically challenged lady got help from a good Samaritan.
During the 2023 International Women's Day celebration, the man met the lady and gave her special treatment.
He took her to a studio for a makeover and also took her to a restaurant for a special meal.