Improving lives in a school that has a single computer, patchy internet, and a student teacher ratio of 58:1 sounds like an impossible task. Yet that is what Kenyan teacher Peter Tabichi, who on Sunday won the $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, has achieved.
Accompanied by his father, the 36-year-old teacher received the prize in front of a star-studded gathering in Dubai, with the award presented by Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman.
“I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi, who is a member of the Franciscan religious order, told the audience. “This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything.”
The award recognises the teacher's commitment to pupils in a rural part of Kenya's Rift Valley. Tabichi left his job at a private school to teach maths and physics at Keriko Secondary School in Pwani village, Nakuru, where 95 per cent of pupils come from poor families. Many have to walk 7km to school along roads made impassable during the rainy season, and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, early marriage and suicide are common.
Tabichi gives away 80 per cent of his monthly income to the poorest students, who could not otherwise afford uniforms and books.
Despite these challenges, the teacher has helped raise the number of students going to college or university from 16 out of 59 students in 2017, to 26 in 2018.
Tabichi's founding of a 'talent-nurturing club' and support for the school’s science club also helped his students win the public schools category at the 2018 Kenya Science and Engineering Fair, an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry, and qualify for the International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 in Arizona.