The world is applauding Kenyan math and physics teacher Peter Tabichi for receiving the Varkey Foundation 2019 Global Teacher Prize.
Hugh Jackman hosted the award ceremony on Sunday in Dubai, where Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum presented Tabichi with the $1 million prize. The money will be disbursed over 10 years.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated Tabichi in a video screened at the ceremony.
“You give me faith that Africa’s best days are ahead of us, and your story will light the way for future generations,” Kenyatta said.
Tabichi won the prize for his dedication to education. He gives 80% of his salary to support students at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in the rural village of Pwani, Nakura, according to Quartz.
Tabichi stopped teaching at a private school to work at Keriko, where 95% of the students live in poverty and a third of children are orphaned or only have one parent. Drought and famine occur regularly in the village, according to the New York Times, and some students walk more than four miles to get to school.
Keriko has crowded classrooms with a student-teacher ratio of 58:1 and few textbooks, but Tabichi finds solutions. The school only has one computer and poor internet connection, but he travels to an internet cafe to download resources for his lessons. He also helps his students pay for their books and tutors some of them on the weekends.
Encouraging students to study the sciences in Kenya, and across Africa, is Tabichi’s main mission. His students have won national and international science competitions and many of them have made it to universities.
"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,” Tabichi told the BBC.
“And girls will be a huge part of this story," he said.
Millions of girls across many African countries don’t receive an education –– more than 49 million girls are out of primary and secondary school in sub-Saharan Africa. Tabichi said convincing the local community to value education can be a struggle. He sometimes visits families whose children might drop out of school, like girls at risk of child marriage.
Tabichi beat 10,000 other teachers from 179 countries in the competition run by the Varkey Foundation, whose mission is to ensure every child gets a quality education. Each year, educators, journalists, officials, and scientists from around the world select the winner. Tabichi is the fifth winner of the competition, which was set up to highlight the global teacher shortage –– 25.8 million school teachers need to be recruited to provide every child with primary education.
The founder of the prize, Sunny Varkey, says he hopes Tabichi’s story will inspire other people to become teachers and appreciate educators around the world. Tabichi plans to use the prize money to improve Keriko and feed people living poverty, according to ABC.