Hero of the Week: Kenyan Science Educator Wins Global Teacher Prize, Plans to Upgrade School with Prize Money
Brother Peter Tabichi always admired teachers, having grown up surrounded by them. His father, uncles and cousins are all teachers. Their work, their impact on young people’s lives inspired him early on to follow in their footsteps.
So, when the Franciscan Brother was named the top teacher in the world during the 2019 Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, it was of little surprise he asked his father onstage and handed him the award. His father had raised him and his siblings alone after Brother Peter’s mother died when he was only 11.
The 36-year-old had taught in a private school at first and while the inspiring young minds brought him great joy, he saw the children of surrounding disadvantaged communities struggle with access to education. For Brother Peter, a staunch believer in Africa’s young generation, things had to change for Kenya and Africa’s future.
Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations. Africa will produce scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story.Brother Peter Tabichi, BBC
So he transferred to Pwani’s Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School, located in Kenya’s Rift Valley, an area struck by famine every three to four years. Dropout, early marriage, drug abuse, teen pregnancies and suicide plagued the school where 95% of children come from very poor families. Nearly a third are orphans or have lost one parent.
But thanks to the brother’s efforts, in just three years enrollment has doubled to more than 400 students, graduation and further education rates have sky-rocketed and female students’ performance has shot up to unprecedented levels.
All of this despite the fact that students often treck more than three miles to school, along roads that become unmanageable during the rainy season. Although Brother Peter donates 80% of his salary to the school, 400 students have to manage with only one computer. So the science teacher hops on his motorcycle and finds an internet cafe to download materials for his students.
To bring together the community that was struck by deadly ethnic and sectarian violence in 2007, Brother Peter has started a number of student clubs, including a peace club, where students plant trees as a symbol for unity, growth and belief in the future.
The math club is headed to the 2019 INTEL Intentional Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona, while 60% of science club members qualify for national competitions, and the chemistry club was awarded by The Royal Society of Chemistry for generating electricity from local plants.
But Brother Peter’s dedication goes even beyond that. He teaches drought-resistant agriculture the nearby communities. He also offers one-on-one tuition after school and on weekends, and visiting struggling students at home.
True to his dedication, Brother Peter also plans on spending the $1 million prize money on school upgrades and donations to the poor. It’s no surprise then that he received a hero’s welcome after returning home as KBC Channel 1 reported.