Kenyan teacher who donates 80% of his salary to poor students crowned world's best teacher, wins $1 million prize

Peter Tabichi. Photo: Varkey Foundation
  • Brother Peter Tabichi, a science teacher from rural Kenya, has won $1 million in prize money and was crowned the world’s best teacher on Sunday.
  • Tabichi, a member of the Franciscan order, says his students face enormous challenges, like food shortages, while Tabichi struggles with an underfunded and overcrowded classroom and almost no technology to help develop his lesson plans.
  • Still, Tabichi has achieved extraordinary results for his pupils, who are frequently qualifying for local and international competitions.

A rural Kenyan science teacher who gives away most of his salary to help poor students has been named “World’s Best Teacher” and awarded $1 million in prize-money on Sunday.

Peter Tabichi, a science teacher and Franciscan Brother at Keriko secondary school in Kenya’s Rift Valley, has won the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019, beating out 10,000 other nominees from 179 countries.

According to the foundation’s website, Tabichi donates 80% of his salary to local community projects, “including education, sustainable agriculture and peace-building.”

Tabichi received the prize at a ceremony in Dubai, hosted by Hugh Jackman.

Tabichi faces challenges that would be unfathomable to teachers in the developed world. 95% of pupils come from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parents, said the Varkey Foundation.

“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common,” amongst the region’s students, according to the foundation.

Still, Tabichi was able to overcome adversity despite limited resources.

“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.”

Thanks to Tabichi, 60% of students submitting research projects to national competitions are qualifying. Tabichi helped mentor students through the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair in 2018, where students displayed a device to allow blind and deaf people to measure objects.

Tabichi also saw his village school come first nationally in the public schools category, while the school’s mathematical science team also qualified to participate at the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 in the US.

Some of his students also won an award from The Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity.

“I’m immensely proud of my students,” Tabichi told the foundation. “We lack facilities that many schools take for granted. So as a teacher, I just want to have a positive impact not only in my country, but also the whole of Africa.”

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