By Isabel Viviano

Peter Tabichi 1.jpg

On 23rd March 2019, the Global Teacher Prize, presented by Hugh Jackman, was awarded to Peter Tabichi. Peter Tabichi is a science teacher, as well as a ‘Franciscan Brother’, more commonly known as a monk. Annually, he gives 80% of his salary to help the poor, aware of the difficulties they face daily. He is an inspirational teacher, who continues to make positive changes in his community and on a wider scale.

Teaching at Keriko Mixed Secondary School, located in the Pwani Village in Kenya, his students have faced many challenges. Frequent famine and droughts plague the area. Nevertheless he has continued to strive to provide his students with an exceptional education. As the school is situated in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, it hosts students from an array of diverse cultures and religions that learn in poorly equipped classrooms.

The students live difficult lives; 95% of students from live in extreme poverty, almost a third are orphans or only have one parent present, and many live without food at home. With this, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, young marriages, dropping out of school and even suicide, are all very common. Daily, students must walk 7km along roads that come impassable during the rainy season, just to receive an education, something many take for granted. Teachers usually face the same difficulties, resulting in the student-teacher ratio being 58:1. This poses a further issue, as the school has limited access to poor internet, only from one computer.

Undeterred, Peter has put in thousands of hours in order to allow his students to reach what was previously considered ‘unattainable’ standards. He has started a talent nurturing club, alongside improving many other clubs already in place at the school. Many clubs, including the Science Club and the Mathematical Science team, have reached prestigious national and international competitions, such as the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair and the International Science and Engineering Fair, alongside receiving exceptional awards from organisations such as The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Peter also provides one-to-one tuition outside class and on weekends, where he visits the students’ homes and meets their families. This allows him to identify the challenges they face, and how he can try to reduce them.

Through making his students believe in themselves, Peter has dramatically improved his pupils’ achievements and self-esteem. Enrollment has doubled over 3 years, and cases of indiscipline have fallen from 30 per week, to just 3. In 2017, 16 out of 59 students went on to college, with that increasing to 26 in 2018. Peter has also boosted girls’ achievements massively, providing them with an education they would not have been able to obtain anywhere else.

Peter Tabichi completely contrasts the 2018 winner of the Global Teacher Prize. Last year, Andria Zafirakou from London, was awarded for redesigning the curriculum at her school, accommodating all her pupils’ needs. Working at Alperton Community School in Brent, she has created a trusting and hard working environment. With her help, Alperton is now in the top 5% of the country in terms of qualifications.

This clear progression of the award, moving from a far wealthier and highly educated background, to a hardworking and charitable teacher, that does all he possibly can for his community. Despite both contributing massively to education, it is clear to see that Andria was in a more advantageous situation, highlighting the importance of Peter receiving such a high level of recognition. He has redefined the factors considered when deciding who is the most deserving of this award, as not only is their impact within the school important, but also the other contributions to society they make. With 80% of Peter’s salary being donated to those more in need than himself, we can clearly see he is more than commendable for such a prestigious award. This indicates a shift in the gifting of the award, alongside people’s perceptions, recognising the outstanding individuals within society that could have previously been overlooked.