A Kenyan science teacher has been crowned the best in the world after winning the 2019 Global Teacher Prize.
Mr Peter Tabichi, a teacher at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village in Nakuru, won the $1m prize on Sunday.
“It is unbelievable. I owe it all to God. I am very grateful to the almighty God,’’ these were the words of the 36-year-old Egerton University graduate when he spoke to the Nation on phone.
Mr Tabichi has been a teacher for 12 years.
Finalists were selected from over 10,000 nominees and applications from 179 countries around the world.
Other finalists were Andrew Moffat from Parkfield Community Schoo l(United Kingdom), Ms Daisy Mertens, an all-subjects teacher (Netherlands), Débora Garofalo a Technologies for Learning teacher from Brazil, Hidekazu Shoto, an English language and ICT teacher at Ritsumeikan Primary School in Japan, Martin Salvetti, Head of Automative Studies and Adult Professional Training from Argentina, Melissa Salguero, a music teacher also from United States, Swaroop Rawal, a life skills teacher at Lavad Primary School in Gujarat, India, Vladimer Apkhazava, a civic education teacher at Chibati Public School in Georgia.
Mr Tabichi was praised for giving away 80 percent of his monthly salary to help poor students in his school.
His dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his students’ talents has led his poorly-resourced school to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions.
The school is located in a remote and semi-arid part of Rift Valley.
There, students from a host of diverse cultures and religions learn in poorly equipped classrooms.
When he was applying for the competition last year, Mr Tabichi, told the Nation, he was just trying his luck.
His family, friends and colleagues said they are planning a party to celebrate his win on Monday.
When Nation spoke to him after he was shortlisted among 10 finalists, he said most of his students are from poor families and single-parent homes.
“They learn in poorly-equipped classrooms. Their lives are tough in a region where drought and famine are frequent,” he said.
Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out from school, young marriages and suicide are common in the community but he believes they can beat the odds if only they dream big and work hard.
Peter has dedicated his life to the community and trains the residents and students on new farming methods to address food insecurity in the famine-prone region.
“I trained the villagers on alternative ways of growing vegetables in gardens. I started peace clubs to unite seven different tribes in our school following the 2007 [post-election violence] that led to killings in Nakuru,” he said.
Through the peace clubs the students became united, conducting debate and tree planting activities.
According to Varkey Foundation, the Nakuru teacher has turned lives around in a school with only one computer, poor internet, and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1.
He started a talent-nurturing club and expanded the school’s Science Club, helping pupils design research projects of such quality that 60 percent now qualify for national competitions.
The teacher mentored his pupils through the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair 2018 – where students showcased a device they had invented to allow blind and deaf people to measure objects.
“This saw this village school come first nationally in the public schools category. The Mathematical Science team also qualified to participate at the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 in Arizona, USA, for which they are currently preparing for,” he said.
His students have also won an award from The Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity.
“By encouraging my students to participate in science and talent-nurturing clubs, they become very innovative. To be a great teacher, you have to be creative embrace technology and promote modern teaching methods. You have to do more and talk less,” he said.