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Teaching Kids How to Navigate through a Pandemic, Insurgency and Adolescence

For more than a decade, Zannah Mustapha has devoted his life to providing hope and peace for children caught in the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. For years, the group has terrorized schools in and around Maiduguri, the capital and largest city of Borno State. Teachers have been murdered, students have been kidnapped, and schools have been forced to close their doors. Today, Mustapha and his staff educate more than 2,000 students from both sides of the conflict at the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School in Maiduguri. During the pandemic, a statewide lockdown kept all of Mustapha’s students from attending in-person classes for two months, he said. But despite extreme obstacles — terrorism, kidnappings in the region and the Covid-19 pandemic — Mustapha’s schools safely reopened last May. Classes are full at all three of his foundation’s schools, with students in school Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mustapha says more classrooms are occupied now during the pandemic to provide more spacing and distanced learning for students and staff. The school offers psychological and social support to help children with trauma. Students, who all live nearby with relatives or family members, are also provided uniforms, books, meals and health services.