Do you remember your favorite teacher in school? Was it someone who instead of just shoving a bunch of curriculum down your throat, so that you would pass some standardized test, seemed to really care about your personal growth and future success? Yeah, the best teachers usually have that in common, especially the world’s official best teacher of 2019! Peter Tabichi teaches math and science at a school in rural Kenya. Now, before you find out about the incredible work this man has done, you have to understand the challenges her’s up against.
You might think that in the 21st century, all kids around the world can get an education, but, sadly, that;s just not the case for over 260 million children. The Keriko Secondary School where Tabichi works is situated in one of those places, where education is more of a rare luxury than anything. With only one computer for the whole school and poor Internet, It’s be an understatement to say that the place is ill-equipped. To make matters worse, it’s understaffed and overcrowded, meaning there is only 1 teacher for every 58 students.
A huge student-to-teacher ratio like that means less individualized attention and usually a lower success rate for kids. Even getting to school is a challenge for a lot of the young ones. Most of them have to walk 4 miles, and in the rainy season, many of then can’t attend altogether because the roads get flooded. Apart from that, 95% of the students come from extremely poor families or none at all! Even in the US, dropout rates are 5 times higher among students that come from families with economic hardship. So you can only imagine what it is like in a small Kenyan village.
Kids often quit school to start working or get married because it means more stability and food on the table. I know, it seems like a hopeless situation. But now you will really be able to appreciate and rejoice about the fact the boys and girls, from this remote African village have taken part in international science competitions, and won and award from the Royal Society of Chemistry! And this is all thanks to Tabichi’s energy and faith in his students.
He started a talent club that encourages kids to create all kinds of projects. And, boy, have they shown what they are capable of! For example, at the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair, Tabichi’s students showed a device that allows blind and deaf people to measure objects. Oh, and the bright young minds invented it themselves! He also teaches his students to look at things from different perspectives. That is why they often do projects where the kids organize the whole process themselves and analyze the result. They are all about using imagination and letting the students make the decisions.
The role of creativity is especially important in Tabichi’s teaching since, according to him, you have to get creative when you don’t have any resources! Together with his coworkers, Tabichi also gives one-to-one tutoring in math and science to low-performing students, talks to their parents, and does whatever he can to meet their needs. If that weren’t enough, he donates 80% of his income to help the poorest members of the community. His hard work and dedication are obviously paying off. Apart from the international recognition his students have gotten at global science fairs, the school’s enrollment as well as the number of graduates that go on to college have doubled.
He is also trying to improve social issues in the community as a whole. You see, some local tribes there really don’t get along, so Tabichi started a peace club to unite the 7 different tribes. The kids work together, have peaceful and productive discussions, and make friends, something that would have seemed impossible in the past! As a Franciscan monk, who mind you, rides to the school on a dirt-bike! Tabichi helps others through his teaching. It is not a job but more like selfless charity work. As he puts it, “Caring for people is in my heart.” And, thus, you can now see why this modest science teacher from rural Kenya won the prestigious $1-million Global Teacher Prize presented by the Varkey Foundation.
This prize is awarded to the best teacher of the year, or as the Foundation puts it, “An exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession.” Teachers from all corners of the globe came through to the final. They were all deserving, but Tabichi’s victory was unchallenged. At the ceremony held in Dubai and hosted by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman, Tabichi said, “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.”
The Varkey Foundation presenting this prize was created by entrepreneur and education philanthropist Sunny Varkey. Varkey himself is originally from India, one of those countries where not all children have access to education. As the Foundation motto goes, “”” And this is what they aspire to in the first place. To support teachers who have to work in severe conditions, yet do their best to give young people not only academic knowledge but also a chance for a better life. The award is not only a way to show appreciation for the hard work of outstanding teachers, but also acknowledge that this profession literally transforms young lives, and through then, the life of the whole community.
The prize is paid over 10 years, The winner gets $100,000 each year, and they have to stay in the profession for the nest 5 years. They become a global ambassador of The Varkey Foundation and take part in events and training's. Peter Tabichi is going to spend the money on computer resources, a scientific library, and new projects for the students and village. One major life-saving initiative he is already started, is teaching community members how to grow drought-resilient crops, which is crucial for not only this small Kenyan village but many like it throughout the African continent!