A Maths and Science teacher who gives away 80 per cent of his monthly salary to help his community has been named winner of the US $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2019.
Peter Tabichi, a Kenyan teacher and a member of the Franciscan religious order, received his prize at an award ceremony in Dubai hosted by actor Hugh Jackman.
Tabichi is the fifth recipient of this prize, following in the footsteps of Andria Zafirakou from the UK, Maggie MacDonnell from Canada, Nancie Atwell from the US and Hanan Al Hroub from Palestine.
He teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, situated in remote, rural Kenya.
Life is his village is hard – the community experiences famine every three to four years, 95 per cent of students come from poor families, and almost a third are orphans or only have one parent.
Tabichi says it's also common for students to arrive at school hungry.
‘They come from very poor families, even affording breakfast is hard. When they are in school they are not able to concentrate mainly because they are not able to get enough meals at home,' he says.
In an effort to assist in times of food insecurity, Tabichi teaches families how to grow drought resistant crops.
‘Food insecurity is a major problem and teaching the members within this community on new ways of farming is a matter of life and death,' he says.
The school itself also lacks facilities – it has one computer and poor internet connection. It has a student-teacher ratio of 58 to one, and students must walk seven kilometres each day to reach the school gates.
‘I'm immensely proud of my students,' he says. ‘We lack facilities that many schools take for granted. As a teacher, I just want to have a positive impact, not only on my country but the whole of Africa.'
Tabichi taps into the students' interests in Science via the Science Club, a place where they conduct research projects and enter them in national competitions. In 2018, Tabichi mentored his students through the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair where they showcased a device they invented that allows blind and deaf people to measure objects. They placed first nationally in the public schools category.
In 2007 tribalism and ethnic rivalry led to a brutal massacre in their local area. To unite the seven different tribes that are represented at the school, Tabichi started a peace club.
‘Through this club the students are united, they conduct debates, they carry out tree planting and all of that brings them together.'
Tabichi is also enthusiastic about technology and embeds ICT into 80 per cent of his lessons.
‘To be a great teacher, you have to be creative and use technology – you really have to promote those modern ways of teaching. You have to do more and talk less,' he says.
Visit globalteacherprize.org to find out more about the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.