A Kenyan teacher who gives away most of his salary to help the poorest students has won a $1m (£760,000) prize and the title of world’s best in his profession.
Peter Tabichi, who works at a high school in a semi-arid, rural village badly affected by famine and drought, has won the Varkey Foundation’s 2019 Global Teacher Prize.
The 36-year-old, a member of the Franciscan religious order, received the award at Dubai’s opulent Atlantis Hotel in a ceremony hosted by actor Hugh Jackman on Sunday.
The foundation said the science and maths teacher was chosen for his “dedication, hard work and passionate belief” in his students at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani village, in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley.
Ninety-five per cent of his students live in poverty and nearly a third are either orphans or from single-parent families. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and early marriage means the school has high drop-out rates.
“Even affording breakfast is hard. They’re not able to concentrate, because they haven’t had enough meals at home,” said Mr Tachibi, who gives 80 per cent of his income to local community projects.
Mr Tabichi said he planned to use his $1m to feed the poor and improve his school, which has no library or laboratory, just one computer and limited internet access.
Despite the obstacles they face, his pupils have emerged victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions.
“At times, whenever I reflect on the challenges they face, I shed tears,” he said of his students, adding that his award will help give them confidence.
‘The story of Africa’
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that Mr Tabichi’s story “is the story of Africa” and would give hope for future generations.
As a member of the Roman Catholic brotherhood, Mr Tabichi wore a plain floor-length brown robe to receive the award presented by Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The teacher had never before travelled beyond neighbouring Uganda and the trip to the ceremony was his first time on a plane.
“I feel great. I can’t believe it. I feel so happy to be among the best teachers in the world, being the best in the world,” he said.
The Global Teacher Prize is awarded annually by the Varkey Foundation, whose founder, Sunny Varkey, set up a private company that runs 55 schools in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Qatar.
Now in its fifth year, the award is the largest of its kind and quickly became one of the most coveted and prestigious for teachers. Mr Tabichi was one of 10,000 applicants from around the globe.