The Varkey Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dubai-based GEMS Education, has awarded the 2019 Global Teacher Prize to Peter Tabichi, a Franciscan brother and math and physics teacher who lives and works in a remote Kenyan village.
First awarded in 2015, the prize recognizes an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession and includes a $1 million cash award paid over ten years. Tabichi teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, where 95 percent of his students live in poverty, 30 percent are either orphans or from single-parent families, and many walk several miles to school along roads that are often impassable during the rainy season. He donates 80 percent of his teaching salary to support local community projects in the areas of education, sustainable agriculture, and peace building.
At a school with only one computer, a poor Internet connection, and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, Tabichi uses information and communication technology in 80 percent of his lessons to engage students by caching online content at Internet cafes for use offline in class. He also started a talent-nurturing club and has expanded the activities of the science club; the Keriko School won in the public schools category at the 2018 Kenya Science and Engineering Fair, and the school's mathematical science team has qualified for the 2019 INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona.
"To be a great teacher you have to be creative and embrace technology," said Tabichi. "You really have to embrace those modern ways of teaching."
Tabichi also tutors low-achieving students and visits their families to identify the challenges they face. As a result, enrollment at the school has doubled over three years to four hundred; the number of graduates going on to college increased from sixteen in 2017 to twenty-six in 2018; and girls' academic achievement in particular has improved, with girls leading boys in test scores last year.
"As a teacher working on the front line I have seen the promise of [the continent's] young people — their curiosity, talent, their intelligence, their belief," said Tabichi. "Africa's young people will no longer be held back by low expectations. Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story."