Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

'He brought glory to the country': Global Teacher Award winner feted as a hero in Kenya

Thousands turn out to welcome Peter Tabichi back to his school, writes Reuben Kyama in Njoro, Kenya

Peter Tabichi, the Franciscan friar who won this year’s $1 million Global Teacher Award in Dubai, has received a rockstar welcome at his Kenyan school.

Thousands of people thronged the dusty walkways and playgrounds of the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School Pwani Village, Nakuru, to see their hero on Saturday.

Mr Tabichi was made an elder by his clansmen and carried on the shoulders of local leaders as pupils, parents and colleagues celebrated his remarkable win.

Almost all of blue-roofed school’s 475 pupils are from disadvantaged backgrounds and many have lost a parent or are orphaned. He gives away most of his monthly salary to help the poor.

“It’s a great feat,” John Wangai, the school’s deputy principal, told The National of Mr Tabichi’s win. “We’re excited and full of jubilation.

“Initially, we could not believe it [was Peter] Tabichi. We’re talking about thousands of teachers who had applied. We’re talking about the first African to have won this award.”

Fresh from a meeting at State House Nairobi with Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who called him an inspiration to society, Mr Tabichi, 36, was delighted to be home again.

“It feels great to be back,” he said, as he walked through the school’s pale blue gate, as the crowds sang, danced and ululated.

“This win is not mine,” he said, lifting the trophy presented to him by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, a week ago. “It’s for everybody – students, my fellow teachers and parents – and everyone in Africa.”

As the news of his win filtered across the region, Mr Wangai said the sleepy villages around the school had been energised. “We are talking about this great teacher who has brought glory to the school, the community and to the country at large,” he said.

Founded in 2007, the school is located in a remote village at Njoro in Nakuru county, 185 km from the capital Nairobi, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. The village has no running water, crumbling roads and unreliable electricity. Most of the houses are temporary structures, built with corrugated iron.

Life is always hard in this part of Kenya but conditions have been exacerbated of late after a dry spell caused crops to fail. The average earnings of a family in Pwani Village is between Ksh 5,000-10,000 (Dh180-365).

Pupils are taught in groups of up to 70 in poorly-equipped classrooms and many walk more than six kilometres a day to get to school.

Mr Tabichi, who is a member of the Catholic religious order founded by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, was nominated for the award, in part, for dedicating 80 per cent of his 40,000 Kenyan shilling (Dh1,470) monthly salary to support the pupils cover the costs of their uniforms and books.

Gerishon Mungai, 17, one of Mr Tabichi’s pupils, was among the crowds at the school to welcome his teacher back on Saturday.

“I am inspired and we thank God for Tabichi’s win,” said Gerishon, who walks to school every day.

He said he hoped winning the award would increase the school’s profile internationally.

“His victory will make us go far,” he said with a smile.

Another pupil, Lucy Karanja, 18, said she was “very glad to welcome Brother Tabichi back to school.”

“We hope with winning this award, Brother Tabichi will help us to improve our school’s infrastructure, which is not in good shape. The classes are not enough, and our science laboratory is not well-equipped,” she said.

Born into a farming family of six, Ms Karanja hopes to become a doctor one day. Her family sell crops such as maize and beans to pay her tuition.

Mr Tabichi’s colleagues and friends praised him for his dedication to teaching. He routinely travels to a cyber-cafe to download resources for his science lessons and helps other teachers with their classes.

Elijah Kebenei, 28, who teaches history and religious studies at the school, said he “taught us how to integrate ICT into our lessons to make learning interesting and to make learners relate to they are being taught in class.”

Joseph Ndirangu, a 38-year-old father of seven, said the award is a big inspiration not only to the school but to the entire community.

“I work in the school at times fixing the classroom doors,” said Mr Ndirangu, whose son attends the school.

This win is not mine. It’s for everybody – students, my fellow teachers and parents – and everyone in Africa.

Peter Tabichi, Global Teacher Prize winner

He said he admires Mr Tabichi’s humility and dedication as a teacher. “He always tells us talk less, do more.”

Daniel Mwariri, the school’s principal, hopes the prize money will help upgrade the school’s resources to cater for its growing population.

Currently, it uses a makeshift kitchen to prepare school meals while pupils take their lunch beneath the trees.

Mr Tabichi was named winner of the Global Teacher Prize in Dubai last week. The annual prize is presented by the Varkey Foundation to exceptional teachers who have made an outstanding contribution to their profession.

Sheikh Hamdan congratulated Mr Tabichi and the whole of Africa, upon presenting him with the award.

"From Dubai, we congratulate the African continent for Global Teacher Prize winner, Kenyan maths and science teacher @PeterTabichi," he wrote on Twitter.

“The lack of resources at his school was never an obstacle in the face of his creativity. We believe that teachers are the creators of needed change."

Updated: March 31, 2019 05:33 PM

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