Tina Savic is the Program Director of the Andan Foundation, Switzerland.
In a world fraught with challenges, the essence of global citizenship transcends borders, ideologies, and conflicts. At the core of this ethos is the Global Citizen Award, a tribute to individuals showing outstanding courage and dedication to cultivating a better global community and creating a meaningful impact on the lives of vulnerable social groups. The 2023 awardee is a champion of education in conflict-affected Northern Nigeria.
The prestigious Global Citizen Award is presented annually by Henley & Partners in collaboration with the Andan Foundation, a Swiss non-profit humanitarian organization. The 2023 recipient of the distinguished accolade is Zannah Bukar Mustapha, internationally recognized Nigerian humanitarian, philanthropist, and Founder of the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation, a school for orphans and less-privileged children. Mustapha’s transformative educational initiatives significantly impacted vulnerable children who lacked access to education. The award was presented at a gala reception on 9 November 2023 during the 17th annual Global Citizenship Conference at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai, in the presence of heads of government, policymakers, prominent academics, private client advisors, and family offices, as well as many affluent entrepreneurs and investors.
After working as a Sharia court lawyer in Northern Nigeria for over 20 years, in 2007, Mustapha witnessed the distressing sight of numerous orphaned children on Maiduguri's streets during school hours. He then made a significant decision — leaving his legal career to work in education as a means to foster social change. Mustapha established the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation, which supports orphans and vulnerable children in accessing education. The school was founded in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State and the epicenter of the Boko Haram rebellion.
Starting from a humble single classroom accommodating 36 students, the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation grew exponentially under his guidance. Through his personal efforts and the support of donors, it expanded to cater to thousands of children on both sides of the conflict, providing them with not just free education but also meals, uniforms, healthcare, and mentorship programs — a sign of the reconciliation he hopes to achieve in the region and exemplary of the transformative power of education in healing fractured communities. Mustapha played a critical role in mediating the release of over 100 of the Chibok school girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in a remote part of Nigeria in April 2014, giving rise to the international #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
What sets Mustapha apart is not just his commitment to education but also his holistic approach to providing a refuge to and healing the emotional wounds of children who have witnessed unspeakable violence. His school provides support and fosters a sense of belonging among his students.
Mustapha's relentless pursuit of a brighter future for the children didn't stop within the school walls. He extended support to widowed parents, offering socioeconomic assistance and skills acquisition programs, recognizing that the community's wellbeing was interconnected with the children's upbringing. In the midst of insecurity and threats posed by the conflict, Mustapha's school remained open, showing his devotion to the school and his students. His resilience and determination garnered recognition from national and international organizations, including the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
Today, the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation boasts an exceptional curriculum and a count of over 2,000 students, ranging from ages three to fourteen. It has a cohort of 4,000 graduates who have successfully gained admission to secondary institutions. The school has directly benefited an impressive total of 7,000 vulnerable children to date.
Mustapha remains unwavering in his mission. His efforts continue as he seeks support from individuals and organizations worldwide to ensure that the children of his community have a future that is not defined by conflict but by education, opportunity, and hope. His story serves as an inspiration and a reminder that access to education combined with compassion can truly benefit societies.