A Kenyan educator’s lesson in selflessness has just earned him the title of the best teacher in the world.
Peter Tabichi — who teaches at a school with just one computer and gives most of his money to the poor — took home $1 million as part of the coveted Global Teacher Prize.
The 36-year-old, who teaches science to high schoolers at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in the remote Pwani village, beat out nine other finalists and 10,000 applicants.
But he said the award, which is the largest of its kind and presented Saturday by Australian actor Hugh Jackman at a ceremony in Dubai, wasn’t about him.
“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter… This prize does not recognize me but recognizes this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi said. “This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything.”
In his acceptance speech, Tabichi said his mother died when he was 11, leaving his father, a primary school teacher, to single-handedly raise him and his siblings.
A member of the Roman Catholic brotherhood, Tabichi was dressed in a plain floor-length brown robe to receive the award from Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He invited his father on stage with him amid roaring applause.
“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 Dubai-based Varkey Foundation has been handing out the prize for the past five years. The winner is chosen by a committee composed of teachers, journalists, officials, entrepreneurs, business leaders and scientists.
Students in Pwani, where drought and famine are common, face an uphill battle for education. Ninety-five percent come from poor families, the foundation said in a statement. Almost a third of the students are orphans or have only one parent — and many go hungry at home, it said.
“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common,” the foundation noted.
At the Keriko school, the student-teacher ratio is 58-to-1 and Tabichi teaches with just one desktop computer and shoddy internet — even though he relies on the web for 80 percent of his lessons.
Varkey acknowledged that Tabichi’s “dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his students’ talent” has led “his poorly-resourced school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions.”
Tabichi’s school has no library and no laboratory. He said he plans to use the $1 million to improve the school and feed the poor.
By: Lisa Eustachewich
Source publication: New York Post