Shaikh Hamdan presents the Best teacher award to Peter Tabichi, a Maths and Physics teacher from Kenya, as Sunny Varkey, founder of the GESF, looks on. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Peter Tabichi, a maths and physics teacher from Kenya, gives 80 per cent of his salary to the poor.

On Sunday, he won the $1 million (Dh3.67 million) Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize in Dubai during the closing ceremony of the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) at Atlantis-The Palm Hotel.

Tabichi teaches at Keriko Secondary School, Pwani Village, Nakuru, Kenya. He was announced the winner at a glittering awards ceremony. Upon receiving the honour, Tabichi declared: “Teachers matter”.

He also declared it as a "victory for the whole world". Tabichi said he was surprised and honoured with the victory.

Now in its fifth year, the $1 million (Dh3.67 million) award is the largest prize of its kind and is awarded annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

On Sunday, the winner was honoured by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rahsid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council.

Speaking at the ceremony, Sarah Bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, thanked one of her eighth grade teachers for inspiring her to reach her full potential and also all teachers who continue to encourage students, including her son Khalid’s teacher.

Hollywood star Hugh Jackman surprised the audience by making an appearance and performing on stage after at first leading them to believe he couldn’t make it to the event in a video address.

Global Teacher Prize 2019 Announcement featuring Hugh Jackman

“It only takes one teacher to bring you back to life,” he said between song and dance performances.

Real stars

“There is no job that’s more important than teaching... I was a teacher’s assistant... and to watch how hard they work is amazing.”

He said “the real stars are these 10 teachers on the stage tonight”.

Jackman also met each finalist to praise them, and tell the audience about their contributions to students.

Also attending were education officials, guests and Sunny Varkey, founder of the GESF, which is also organised by Varkey Foundation.


Number of nominees and applications from 179 countries for Global Teacher Prize


Finalists were selected from over 10,000 nominees and applications from 179 countries around the world. Apart from these, there have also been tens of thousands of applications for the 33 National Teacher Prizes that have been inspired by the Global Teacher Prize.

The winners of each National Teacher Prize were also put forward for consideration when the top 50 shortlist for this year’s global prize was decided.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

The top 10 were narrowed down from a shortlist of 50 in December 2018.

Who is Peter Tabichi?

Peter Tabichi is a science teacher who gives away 80 per cent of his monthly income to help the poor.

His dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his student’s talent has led his poorly-resourced school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions.

Peter teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, situated in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley.

Here, students from a host of diverse cultures and religions learn in poorly-equipped classrooms.

Their lives can be tough in a region where drought and famine are frequent. Ninety-five per cent of pupils hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home.

Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common.

His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulates the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2019

Turning lives around in a school with only one computer, poor internet, and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, is no easy task, not least when to reach the school, students must walk 7-km along roads that become impassable in the rainy season.

Peter started a talent nurturing club and expanded the school’s Science Club, helping pupils design research projects of such quality that 60 per cent now qualify for national competitions.

Peter mentored his pupils through the Kenya Science and Engineering Fair 2018 — where students showcased a device they had invented to allow blind and deaf people to measure objects.

Peter saw his village school come first nationally in the public schools category. The Mathematical Science team also qualified to participate at the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 in Arizona, USA, for which they’re currently preparing.

His students have also won an award from The Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity.

Peter and four colleagues also give low-achieving pupils one-to-one tuitions in Maths and Science outside class and on the weekends, where Peter visits students’ homes and meets their families to identify the challenges they face.

Despite teaching in a school with only one desktop computer with an intermittent connection, Peter uses ICT in 80 per cent of his lessons to engage students, visiting internet cafes and caching online content to be used offline in class. 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 indiscipline have fallen from 30 per week to just three. In 2017, only 16 out of 59 students went on to college, while in 2018, 26 students went to university and college. Girls’ achievement in particular has been boosted, with girls now leading boys in all four tests set in the last year.

“Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching! When they become resilient, creative and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction for I act as their greatest destiny enabler and key that unlocks their potential in the most exciting manner.”

The 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2019

● Andrew Moffat MBE, a Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) teacher from Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom

● Daisy Mertens, an all subjects teacher at community-based school De Vuurvogel, Helmond, Netherlands

● Debora Garofalo a Technologies for Learning teacher at EMEF Almirante Ary Parreiras, Sao Paulo, Brazil

● Hidekazu Shoto, an English language and ICT teacher at Ritsumeikan Primary School, Kyoto, Japan

● Martin Salvetti, Head of Automative Studies and Adult Professional Training, at EEST N°5 “2 de Abril” Temperley, Temperley, Buenos Aires, Argentina

● Melissa Salguero, a music teacher at P.S.48 Joseph R Drake elementary school, the Bronx, New York, United States

● Peter Tabichi, a maths and physics teacher at Keriko Secondary School, Pwani Village, Nakuru, Kenya

● Swaroop Rawal, a life skills teacher, at Lavad Primary School, Gujarat, India

● Vladimer Apkhazava, a civic education teacher at Chibati Public School, Tbilisi, Georgia

● Yasodai Selvakumaran a history and society and culture teacher, at Rooty Hill High School, New South Wales, Australia