Hardworking, humble, intelligent and kind are some of the words used by colleagues to describe Brother Peter Mokaya Tabichi who won the 2019 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize on Sunday.
The 36-year-old is a member of the Franciscan Brothers, an order in the Catholic Church.
The mathematics and physics teacher at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani village, Nakuru County made Kenya and Africa shine when he bagged the $1 million (Sh100 million) prize, beating nine other contenders.
The panel praised him for donating 80 per cent of his salary to help needy students as well as families in Pwani village, and his ability to make learners love science.
Colleagues say his dedication, passion to teaching and his humility are unrivalled.
“Bro Tabichi’s belief in his students has made our poorly equipped school perform well in national science competitions,” Mr Benjamin Buluku, a mathematics and chemistry teacher said.
“He revamped the science club and became our role model.”
When the Nation team visited the school on Monday, students, teachers and villagers were celebrating his achievements.
His students say he has devised ways of improving grades in the subjects he teaches. “Bro Tabichi is humble and committed to his work. Apart from teaching, he spares time to advise and inspire us,” Dennis Ngige, a Form Four student, said.
Though winning came as a surprise, the learners and the school administration say it is well deserved.
“Bro Tabichi has made use of the few available resources to improve performance in the sciences. The school has one lab and rundown classrooms,” the school’s deputy principal, Mr John Njoroge, said.
Teachers rarely remain in the school for a year due to the harsh conditions in the dry area, he said. “The school was started nine years ago and we have done well. We have 12 teachers.”
School Board of Management chairman Dan Muchiri described Bro Tabichi as a saviour.
“It is not a win for Keriko Secondary School only, but for the entire continent. We are delighted. It is a testament that as a country, we are poised for greatness,” Prof Muchiri said.
Mr Daniel Mwariri, the principal, attended the Dubai event.
Parents and area residents interviewed said Bro Tabichi has lived up to the school motto: “Changing Lives Through Education”.
Bro Tabichi is praised for starting a talent nurturing club. More than 60 per cent of students’ projects qualify for the Kenya Science Engineering fair.
“In 2017, the school participated in the National Science and Engineering event. One of our projects was an innovation on electricity production using plant extracts,” a teacher at the school said.
The school was ranked second in the 56th national fair while its mathematics project emerged the best, thanks to Bro Tabichi’s work.
The Nation has learnt that some Keriko students will take part in the 2019 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona, the United States.
Hundreds of kilometres away, celebrations rocked Bro Tabichi’s rural home in Mokorong’osi village, Nyamira County.
Most of the friar’s relatives are teachers.
“His father was a teacher and so are most of his uncles. We are very happy and we thank God for this win,” Ms Naom Moraa, a relative, said.
Bro Tabichi’s mother died when he was just 11, leaving his father with the tough task of taking care of him and his siblings.