Kenyan Franciscan Brother takes top teaching prize

In March this year, the $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019 was awarded to Peter Tabichi, a science teacher and Franciscan Brother who teaches at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, situated in a remote, semi- arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley.
The Global Teacher Prize is awarded by
the Varkey Foundation under the patronage
of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab
Emirates (UAE) vice president, UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai. Sunny Varkey, the Varkey Foundation’s founder and chairperson, whose parents were both teachers, founded the Global Teacher Prize to honour those who unsung heroes and heroines in classrooms around the world.
Like all Franciscan Brothers, Tabichi eschews material wealth, and gives away 80% of his monthly income to help the poor in his community.
Upon receiving his award, he said: “Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching. When they become resilient, creative and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction.”
Tabichi’s students live in a region where drought, poverty and famine are endemic. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common.
There is only one computer at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School, and an internet connection is intermittent. There are about 58 students in each class and many students must walk 7km along roads that become impassable in the rainy season.
Tabichi never lets such challenges get in his way. He founded a science club at the school and students now produce work of such quality that they qualify to enter national competitions such as the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair 2018, where students showcased a device they had invented to allow blind and deaf people to measure objects. Tabichi’s team came 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, in the US. Previously, Keriko
students have also won an award from The Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity. Tabichi is one of five teachers who offer low-achieving pupils
one-to-one tuition in maths and science after hours and on the weekends. To do this, Tabichi visits students’ homes and meets their families to identify the challenges they face. Additionally, he downloads online content at the village internet café and uses it to teach offline in his classes.
Tabichi’s determination is catching. The Varkey Foundation found that this remarkable teacher has dramatically improved his pupils’ achievement and self-esteem. Enrolment has doubled to 400 over three years, and cases of poor behaviour have fallen from 30 per week to just three. In 2017, only 16 out of 59 Keriko students went on to college, while in 2018, 26 students went to university and college. Girls in particular have excelled at this school under Tabichi’s guidance and instruction.
The Varkey Foundation has announced that Tabichi has also been appointed as the first “Champion for Children in Conflicts and Crisis” for Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in crisis.

Category: Winter 2019

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