A Kenyan teacher, who has been named the 'world's best teacher', wants to follow only one mission in life: To serve others, especially in the field of education.
Peter Tabichi's experiences with tragedy and resilience as an educator in a remote Kenyan village earned him Dubai's $1-million Global Teacher Prize on Sunday (March 24).
The 36-year-old teaches at Keriko Secondary School, which suffers from a severe lack of resources. It has no library, no kitchen and only one computer but with no proper Internet connectivity.
Khaleej Times spoke to him a day after his win about the challenges his school and community face, how he overcomes them, and how the Global Teacher Prize can potentially transform his students' lives.
Q-What are some of the challenges your school faces?
There are many challenges. The students I teach come from very poor backgrounds. Their school doesn't have enough facilities, poor infrastructure, we don't have a kitchen or a library. At the same time, we have a shortage of teachers and that's a problem most of Kenya faces. At the moment, we have 480 students. The number has grown. When I joined the school in 2015, there were 200 students and it's still increasing.
How do you manage with severe lack of resources?
To make learning interesting, I had to come up with ways to be innovative. One of the things I did was to motivate students to produce innovations by participating in science fairs. They've qualified to participate at the national level and also at the international level. To address pthe roblem of teacher shortage and to make learning interesting, I integrated ICT. We have a projector, a desktop computer. I get material online. But, unfortunately, accessing internet is a big challenge so I have to go to the nearby cyber cafes, which is in quite some distance, and download videos and online content. Later, I use projectors for PowerPoint presentations. When I want to access internet at school, I use my laptop and mobile phones and make the connection with hotspots. But, it's still a challenge because the connectivity is still low.
Your students walk 7km to reach school. How do you keep them enthusiastic about learning?
In school we have programmes that keep them happy. One of the programmes is guidance and counselling. I help them engage in activities, such as science and innovations, and they shine. This year we have students who are participating in the international level. It gives them that confidence and happiness.
Can you share a story of one child from your school whose life you think you transformed?
One of the students I can remember is Essa Amimo, who comes from a very poor background. They have a house with only one room. It's subdivided into two - a sitting room, which they use for everything like cooking meals, study room and a bedroom. At times, they don't have meals. She often comes to school hungry. The school meal is her only meal most days. In the morning, when students report and have not taken breakfast, their level of concentration becomes low. The school decided to give students porridge to help them concentrate in class.
You moved from teaching at a private school to teach at a low-resourced school in a remote village. Why?
Yes, I moved from a private school to the school I am teaching now. Because, in that private school, they had proud students from rich families. When I looked around, surrounding schools had challenges and I felt unfair and thought I could do something for them. So I applied at the Keriko school.
Keeping all challenges you just mentioned in mind, how did you feel when they called your name as the winner for the $1m Global Teacher Prize last night?
I felt excited because I wanted to show I'll emerge, I'll win it. I was excited. I found myself shedding tears. I shed tears because I was recalling the challenges I've and the community have suffered. It was a quick reminder of what is happening back home. I felt happy and it was a great moment for me and my people.
How are you going to use the award to transform your school?
It's a great honour to win this award because it's the beginning of a new life. It's going to transform the lives of many. For starters, I want my school to prosper and make it a modern school, where the other schools from Africa and rest of the world aspire to be in this kind of a school. So, I'll take advantage of this to really show that people can be made very happy. I'll come up with projects that will benefit the students and address the challenges they face.
Why do you think this win is important not just for Kenya, but also for all of Africa?
It is very important not just for me or for Kenya, but for the whole of Africa and the world, because it shows that Africa has potential. Only if we understand the talents and potential we have, we can be anything - we can be famous scientists and doctors in the world. We have done a lot in the world and I'm sure we'll be able to move very far.
You called your father on stage last night when you won, why was it important for you to highlight your father's contribution?
I felt like it would be great to recognise him because of what he has done to my life. He inspired me a lot to become a teacher and a Franciscan brother. He's not a brother, but he motivated me about them and what they do. To be a Franciscan Brother requires that we just remain humble and we have to sacrifice some things that people enjoy, so I don't have a family, own property. We are there just to serve and ensure that people in the society benefit from us.
He also did a lot for the family. We went through many challenges. There was a time we lost my mother at the age of 11. He was doing everything for the family - giving us the best education and instilling moral Christian values in us. He taught me to be resilient, selfless, have humility. He told me that if I am humble, I will be able to move far. Now, winning this, is like a dream turned into reality.
The UAE is celebrating the Year of Tolerance this year. What do you think about that?
I think tolerance is a great value and winning this comes at the right time. We really need to respect everyone, regardless of their background, where they come from, whether they are young or old and regardless of their gender. Being accepting of everyone is what is going to bring humility and that's what we need for the world to come together.
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