Kenyan Maths and Physics teacher Peter Tabichi has won the Global Teacher Prize 2019.
Peter has dedicated his life to helping others. He gives 80% of his teaching salary to local community projects, including education, sustainable agriculture and peace-building.
He’s changed the lives of his students in many ways, including the introduction of science clubs and the promotion of peace between different ethnic groups and religions. He has also helped to address food insecurity among the wider community in the famine-prone Rift Valley.
Peter teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, where 95% of his students live in poverty and 30% are either orphans or from single-parent families. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and early marriage can lead to students dropping out from school.
“The school is in a very remote area. Most of the students come from very poor families. Even affording breakfast is hard. They’re not able to concentrate, because they haven’t had enough meals at home,” he says.
David vs Goliath
Turning lives around in a school with only one computer, poor internet connections, and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, is no easy task. On top of that, some students must walk 7km along roads that become impassable in the rainy season.
He started by introducing a Talent Nurturing Club and expanding the Science Club - and his hard work and belief in his student’s abilities paid off when the school beat some of the best schools in the country in the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair 2018. His students showcased a device they had invented to allow blind and deaf people to measure objects.
“I’m immensely proud of my students, we lack facilities that many schools take for granted, so as a teacher, I just want to have a positive impact not only on my country but on the whole of Africa,” he says.
The Mathematical Science team has also qualified for the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 in Arizona, USA. And his students also won an award from The Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity.
A life’s work
His teaching stretches far beyond the classroom to address the daily struggles of people in the wider community.
The area experiences famine every three to four years, so Peter has been teaching local people how to grow famine-resistant crops.
“Food insecurity is a major problem, so teaching new ways of farming is a matter of life and death,” says Peter, who also works hard to promote peace.
Tribal violence tore through the Rift Valley after the 2007 presidential election and many were killed in Nakuru. Peter started a peace club to unite the seven different tribes represented at the school. He’s also introduced a common programme for prayer and worship in assembly, led in turn by pupils from different religions.
The power of self-belief
Teaching is in Peter’s blood – his father, uncle and cousins were all teachers and he admired the work they were doing in society and aspired to emulate them, making a real difference to people’s lives.
Through making his students believe in themselves, Peter has dramatically improved his pupils’ achievement and self-esteem. Enrolment has doubled to 400 over three years, and cases of bad behaviour have fallen from 30 per week to just three.
The achievement of girls in particular has been boosted, with girls now leading boys in all four tests set in the last year.
He says: “To be a great teacher you have to be creative and embrace technology. You really have to embrace those modern ways of teaching. You have to do more and talk less.”