Nigerian girls from Nansen award winner's school dream again
It is morning assembly at Treasures Richfield College, a small secondary school in Maiduguri, the dusty, the wind-blown capital of Borno State, in north-east Nigeria.
Even though early in the day, a baking hot sun is creating beads of sweat on the brows of excited students lined up in front of a modest wooden stage. Music blasts out of speakers to one side. The school has limited resources, but big ambitions. And today is a big day.
It is also a day 16-year-old Fannah Mohammed Ali once feared she would never see. She has just been named as the school’s new head girl following a rigorous selection process. Five years ago, however, she almost had to abandon school.
“I thought my schooling days were over for good. I lost hope.”
“My father was a soldier, so was my brother… both were killed by Boko Haram,” she told UNHCR, explaining her mother then had to support her and the rest of her family by selling charcoal and firewood. “I thought my schooling days were over for good. I lost hope.”
But a friend told her mother about Zannah Mustapha’s Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School, created to look after orphans and other displaced and vulnerable children created by the insurgency, which has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.
She was accepted. Since then she has never looked back. Today, her ambition is to become a doctor.
“I can now think of tomorrow because of what he did for us.
Mustapha, who has been named as this year’s winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award, charges no school fees and provides uniforms and and food for his pupils. But most importantly for many, he gives them back hope.
“I can now think of tomorrow because of what he did for us … after my father’s death I thought we would never see happiness again, but now here we are,” Fanna said.
Mustapha’s Future Prowess Islamic Foundation is providing the fees for Fannah to attend Treasures Richfield. One of her best friends, Zeinab Ibrahim, who was also an orphan at Mustapha’s school, also came to the secondary and has just been named a head prefect.
“This is a good day, a happy day – but we owe everything to Mr. Mustapha and we will always see him as our father. He treated us all the same. He is such a good man.”