Peter Tabichi, a member of the Franciscan religious order, has just won the 2019 Global Teacher Prize.
Brother Peter, a science teacher from Kenya, has been praised for his achievements in a deprived school with crowded classes and few textbooks. He has been recognises for the “exceptional” teacher’s commitment to pupils in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley.
Peter teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village. Here, students from a host of diverse cultures and religions learn in poorly equipped classrooms.
Their lives can be tough in a region where drought and famine are frequent. About 95% of pupils hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common.
Turning lives around in a school with only one computer, poor internet, and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, is no easy task, not least when to reach the school, students must walk 7km along roads that become impassable in the rainy season.
The 36-year-old teacher believes in the potentialities of Africa’s young population. “As a teacher working on the front line I have seen the promise of its young people – their curiosity, talent, their intelligence, their belief.
“Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations. Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story.”
Brother Peter says part of the challenge has been to persuade the local community to recognise the value of education, visiting families whose children are at risk of dropping out of school. He tries to change the minds of families who expect their daughters to get married at an early age – encouraging them to keep their girls in school.
Brother Peter said the award was an optimistic sign. “It’s morning in Africa. The skies are clear. The day is young and there is a blank page waiting to be written. This is Africa’s time,” he said.
The founder of the prize, Sunny Varkey, says he hopes Brother Peter’s story “will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Kenya and throughout the world every day”.
The Global Teacher Prize is an annual US $1 million award by the Varkey Foundation to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.