A maths and physics teacher from Kenya has been awarded the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize. The award ceremony in Dubai was hosted by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman, who performed songs from his film The Greatest Showman.
Jackman announced Brother Peter Tabichi, a Franciscan friar who teaches at Keriko Secondary School, as winner of the one million dollar (£756,000) prize.
Br Peter said: “Every day in Africa, we turn a new page and a new chapter. Today is another day. This prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved. This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything.”
Br Peter has been praised for his achievements in a deprived school with crowded classes and few text books. He wants pupils to see “science is the way to go” for their futures.
The award, announced in a ceremony in Dubai, recognises the “exceptional” teacher’s commitment to pupils in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley. Br Peter gives away 80 per cent of his pay to support pupils, at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, Nakuru, who otherwise could not afford uniforms or books.
“It’s not all about money,” says Br Peter, whose pupils are almost all from very disadvantaged families. Many are orphaned or have lost a parent. The 36-year-old teacher wants to raise aspirations and to promote the cause of science, not just in Kenya but across Africa.
The Franciscan says there are “challenges with a lack of facilities” at his school, including not enough books or teachers. Classes meant to have 35 to 40 pupils are taught in groups of 70 or 80, which, he says, means overcrowded classrooms and problems for teachers.
The lack of a reliable internet connection means he has to travel to a cyber-cafe to download resources for his science lessons. And many of the pupils walk more than four miles on bad roads to reach the school. But Br Peter says he is determined to give them a chance to learn about science and to raise their horizons.
His pupils have been successful in national and international science competitions, including an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK.
The judges said that his work at the school had “dramatically improved his pupils’ achievement”, with many more now going on to college or university, despite resources at the schools being “severely constrained”.
Br Peter was congratulated by Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta. “Peter – your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent. Your students have shown that they can compete amongst the best in the world in science, technology and all fields of human endeavour.”
The competition is intended to raise the status of the teaching profession.
Photo: Br Peter Tabichi, a maths and physics teacher from Kenya is awarded the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai.