Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Kenyan teacher wins $1 million global teaching prize

Peter Tabichi was presented with the award in the presence of the Crown Prince of Dubai and actor Hugh Jackman

Full interview: Global Teacher Prize winner Peter Tabichi tells of 'a new life' for his pupils

A Franciscan monk has been named the winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize at a star-studded ceremony in Dubai.

Peter Tabichi from Kenya was presented with the prestigious award in the presence of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and actor Hugh Jackman.

Emotions ran high at the final ceremony at Atlantis, The Palm as Mr Tabichi dedicated the award to his father, who raised him after his mother died when he was 11.

The teacher, 36, was nominated in part for dedicating 80 per cent of his monthly salary to support pupils studying at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, Nakuru, to help cover the cost of their uniforms and books.

Almost all of the pupils at the school are from disadvantaged backgrounds, and many have lost a parent or are orphaned.

They are taught in groups of 70 or 80 and many walk more than 6 kilometres to reach the school.

A poor internet connection means he has to travel to a cyber-cafe to download resources for his science lessons. But despite the challenges they face, a number of his pupils have gone on to participate in national and international science competitions. One even won an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK.

The judges noted how his work at the school had "dramatically improved his pupils' achievement". Many more are now going on to college or university, in spite of the school's limited resources.

“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter,” said Mr Tabichi, who is a member of the Catholic religious order founded by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.

“This prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people.

“I am only here because of what my students have achieved. This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything.”

He said he has seen the promise the young people of Africa, who exhibit curiosity, talent, intelligence and belief.

They will no longer be held back by low expectations, he said. They will become scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs.

"And girls will be a huge part of this story," added Mr Tabichi, who tries to persuade families who expect their daughters to get married at an early age to keep them in school.

Mr Tabichi said he was “pleased, honoured and humbled” to be awarded the Global Teacher Prize.

Officials commended him for his work at the school, which has only one computer, and a ratio of one teacher to every 58 pupils.

The ceremony also heard that he offered one-on-one tuition sessions at pupils’ homes during weekends.

Writing on Twitter, Sheikh Hamdan paid tribute to Mr Tabichi's creativity and dedication.

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

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, also congratulated Mr Tabichi, writing on Twitter that "Teachers are the pioneers of development and the true change makers".

In a video message played to the audience, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told Mr Tabichi: “You are a shining example of what the human spirit can achieve – not just for Kenya, not just for Africa, but for the world” .

“You give me faith that Africa’s best days are ahead of us and your story will light the way for future generations.”

Sunday night's ceremony began with a video message from Jackman, who introduced each of the 10 finalists to the stage.

The roof of the venue almost lifted off when he then appeared in person to perform songs from The Greatest Showman, a 2017 musical in which he starred.

Mr Tabichi was chosen from an original list of 10,000 candidates from around the world.

Updated: March 25, 2019 06:14 PM

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