The saying, “what goes around comes around” sometimes becomes the motivation for people to do good, so that they will receive good in return. But for this Kenyan school teacher, he surely wasn’t thinking of personal gain when he was donating most of his earnings to the poor – he was doing it purely out of love for his community.
36-year-old Peter Tabichi took home $1 million as he was awarded the coveted Global Teacher Prize last Sunday, March 24, 2019. The ceremony, hosted by actor, Hugh Jackman, was held in the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai.
Tabichi teaches math and physics to high school students at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in the faraway Pwani village. He beat other nine finalists for the award and 10,000 applicants.
The prize is awarded by the Varkey Foundation, which has been handing out the prestigious prize for the past five years. The winner is meticulously selected by a group composed of journalists, teachers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, officials, and scientists.
Tabichi graciously accepted the award but said that it was not 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. This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything.”
In his acceptance speech, Tabichi narrated that his mother died when he was only 11 years old. Tabichi’s father, a primary school teacher, raised him and his siblings all on his own.
The educator is a member of the Roman Catholic brotherhood and during the ceremony, he received his award from Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum dressed in a plain floor-length brown robe.
Tabichi acknowledged his father in his speech, pointed at him in the audience then invited him to go up on stage. The grateful son handed him his trophy as the audience erupted into loud cheers and applause.
Tabichi said that the farthest place he had traveled to was in Uganda. His trip to Dubai marked his first time on a plane. He told The Associated Press:
“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.”
The residents of Pwani often experience drought and famine. Almost a third of the children there are orphans or have only one parent.
“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common,” the Varkey Foundation noted.
At the government-run Keriko school, the student-teacher ratio is 58:1. There is just one desktop computer in the whole school and poor internet connection. Tabichi teaches his students using these limited resources, and it is a big challenge given that he relies on the web for 80 percent of his lessons.
Despite these struggles, Tabichi is credited with helping many students stay in school, attend college, and qualify for international competitions in science and engineering.
“At times, whenever I reflect on the challenges they face, I shed tears,” Tabichi said of his students. He added that his victory will give them confidence.
The school also has no library and laboratory, and Tabichi plans to use his $1 million cash prize to improve the school and feed the poor.
Congratulations to Peter Tabichi for winning this award! He truly deserves to be recognized worldwide for his dedication as an educator and philanthropic advocacies in the Kenyan community.
Watch the video below to learn more about Peter Tabichi and his story.