Teachers dedicate their careers and much of their lives to their students. The never-ending job is demanding, challenging, and is often thankless yet teachers cling to the hope that education will inspire future generations to better themselves and the planet.
For years, one teacher from a remote village in Kenya has completely devoted his life to his job as a teacher and has made huge sacrifices for his students. In 2019, his hard work was finally recognized and he was granted an award that could finally make his dreams a reality for his students…
When Peter Tabichi, a 36-year-old teacher from Kenya, was just 11 years old, his family suffered a tragedy when his mother passed away. As a result, Tabichi’s dad was left on his own to juggle his responsibilities as a primary school teacher and a single father.
Tabichi’s father raised the then 11-year-old and his siblings all on his own. According to Tabichi, his father’s strength, dedication, and faith inspired him in ways that would stay with him for the rest of his life. As he got older, Tabichi decided to do everything in his power to help and instill strength in others.
A Life Mission
As an adult, Tabichi decided to devote his life to service and helping others by becoming a Franciscan monk, a member of the Catholic religious order founded by St. Francis of Assisi. However, he also got a job as a teacher at a local school as he knew helping the youth would inspire the most change.
Making A Difference
According to Tabichi, his father, uncle, and cousins have all worked as teachers. He could see that his relatives were making a real difference in people’s lives and wanted to do the same. So for the past 12 years, Tabichi has worked as a math and science teacher in the hopes that his lessons will give students a chance to improve their situations.
A Challenging Job
However, working at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village in Nakuru, Kenya, hasn’t been easy. The remote village and the school experience unique challenges and obstacles that have forced Tabichi to find unique solutions for his students.
According to Tabichi, the government-run school only has one computer and unreliable internet access. As a result, Tabichi often is forced to travel to a cyber cafe to download resources for his science classes. The school also has no library or laboratory.
Overcrowded And Understaffed
To make matters worse, there are not enough books for all the students and the school is desperately in need of more teachers. The teachers that do work at the school then struggle in overcrowded classrooms. Instead of 35-40 children per classroom, teachers are forced to teach groups of 70-80 kids at one time.
Not only is this a burden on the teachers, but the students aren’t able to get the attention and guidance that they need to thrive. Unfortunately, the school facilities aren’t the students’ only concerns. The semi-arid village experience droughts and famines regularly.
Learning In Poverty
“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,” Tabichi told the Varkey Foundation about his students.
Fighting Food Insecurity
To help, Tabichi also teaches students and locals about famine-resistant crops. “Food insecurity is a major problem, so teaching new ways of farming is a matter of life and death,” said Tabichi. On the other hand, the rainy season also makes it impossible for students to walk more than four miles to school as the unsafe roads flood.
One of the other major challenges that Tabichi faces is keeping kids in school as long as possible. According to Tabichi, 95 percent of his students live in poverty and around 30 percent are either orphans or are being raised by single parents. As kids get older, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, suicide, and early marriages are huge issues that either cause kids to drop out or miss out on completing their education.
A Never-Ending Job
So Tabichi spends most of his time outside of the classroom working on ways to keep kids in school. When the 36-year-old gets the feeling that a student is at risk of dropping out, he works to persuade families to put more value in education. According to Tabichi, this is a regular issue with families that expect their daughters to drop out of school to get married at a young age.
Not About Money
“At times, whenever I reflect on the challenges they face, I shed tears,” Tabichi said about his students in a statement reported by the Associated Press. To help those in poverty afford food, uniforms, and books, Tabichi also gives away 80 percent of his salary. “It’s not all about money.”
Making A Positive Impact
Despite all the obstacles he faces, Tabichi is credited for improving the school and keeping much of the village’s youth in school. He has also managed to implement science clubs, addressed food insecurity issues, and helped bring peace between several ethnic groups and religions.
Surviving And Thriving
Thanks to his tireless work, his students have excelled. In recent years, students have won national and international science competitions like the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Chemistry for creating a device that harnesses plant life to generate electricity.
A Proud Teacher
Tabichi’s students have also qualified for the 2019 INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona, USA. “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,” Tabichi said.
The Global Teacher Prize
In March of 2019, Tabichi’s work was finally acknowledged when he was voted the best teacher in the world out of 10,000 applicants and won Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize of $1 million. “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,” Tabichi told The Associated Press after his win at a ceremony in Dubai hosted by Hugh Jackman.
Life Changing Money
Tabichi plans to use the prize money to improve the school and feed the poor. He also hopes his accomplishment will inspire others to push past all the obstacles. “As a teacher working on the front line I have seen the promise of its young people – their curiosity, talent, their intelligence, their belief,” Tabichi told the BBC.
“Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations. Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story,” Tabichi said. “I appreciate this recognition on behalf of all hard-working teachers throughout the world.”
“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. Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations,” Tabichi said while receiving his award. “It’s morning in Africa. The skies are clear. The day is young and there is a blank page waiting to be written. This is Africa’s time.”