Br. Peter Tabichi, a Franciscan Friar (Order of Saint Francis) is currently a teacher at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, in the Rift Valley in Kenya. He did a Bachelor of Education in Science at Egerton University. Growing up, access to quality education was not always easy for him. He always knew that he was lucky to get the education he did. Today many of his own pupils continue to struggle against hardships even greater than those he grew up with.
As an educator, he wants to leave a lasting legacy not only in his local community but even in inspiring the whole of Africa and the world. He has been promoting access to quality education through empowering the disadvantaged youths in the community by embracing opportunities of 21st century education to unlock their potential. He believes that responsibility, stewardship, unity, caring, and respect are part and parcel of transformative leadership. In the year 2019, he won the Global Teacher Prize - initiative of the Varkey Foundation. He was chosen from over 10,000 teachers who came from all corners of the globe teaching in remote towns and villages to inner-city schools advocating for inclusivity and for child rights, integrate migrants into the classrooms, and nurture their students’ abilities and confidence using music, technology, robotics, and science. His community is not unlike other rural villages in Africa and serves as an example of the challenges African education systems, communities, and schools are facing in educating the next generation in Africa.
Challenges faced by his school and local community
His village is made up of different tribes, many of the students live in poverty, and whereas others are either orphans or living in single-parent households. Negative ethnicity, food insecurity due to frequent droughts, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, and early dropouts are all things he has observed. His school is in a very remote area with some students walking 7 km along roads that become impassable in the rainy season.
His achievements despite the challenges faced
However, with great support from many stakeholders, he had to resort to grit and determination to innovate and work around the immense challenges they face as a community and school. To address attendance and build self-esteem, and leverage indigenous knowledge for innovation, he expanded their school Science Club. They are seeing some extraordinary results and enrollment has tripled over the last few years. He is so proud of everything his students have achieved. These students have shown that, with very few resources, they can compete on a world stage in science and technology. In the year 2019, two of his students were chosen to represent Kenya at the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Phoenix, Arizona where they won the UN Sustainable Development Goal Award. They had never stepped on a plane before. But with a good education, their talent has truly soared.
His philosophy of unlocking the potential of youth is based on teaching children not just standard academic subjects but the 21st century skills where they learn about problem solving, teamwork, innovation, resilience, and independent thought that will truly equip them for taking on the challenges of the complex world they will inherit. .
In collaboration with other colleagues, he promotes individualized education support to low-achieving pupils and engages their parents/guardians in order to identify challenges they face. As the area experiences drought, he is keen to work with the local people towards the expansion of climate-resilient technologies. He also promotes the use of renewable energy sources like solar power for home lighting. He has involved state and non-state actors towards equipping their school with learning resources such as Wi-Fi installation, construction of more classrooms, improved water and sanitation facilities.
Response to Covid19 pandemic
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he set up a project for helping students from underprivileged families to continue learning during the school closure. It involved providing a selected group of students with low-cost mobile phones, weekly internet bundles, and continuous online mentorship.
This project was done in collaboration with other teachers, parents, and neighboring schools. As teachers, their role focused on coaching and mentoring the learners. The main activities included: forming a WhatsApp group to coordinate the activities and using Google Classroom to submit assignments, guiding the students on the recommended learning websites, scheduling Webinar meetings for lessons, discussions, and mentorship, training the students on how to stay safe online, training the students how to download online content and how to record lessons to be used when working offline, installing offline mobile educational apps, and assessing the students through research projects.
He has also been participating in various Webinar meetings with other teachers and educators across the world to share and learn on the way forward after the school closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peter Tabichi became the first African (and the first male) to emerge as the winner of the 2019 Global Teacher Prize. Tabichi was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2019. He has also received many awards including the Ahimsa Award 2020 (by Institute of Jainology), Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta), and UN in Kenya Person of the year 2019.
He has visited the Oval Office in Washington DC and Opened the US congress with Franciscan Prayer for Peace. He has addressed several gatherings including World Bank and World Economic Forum. In early 2020, he met His Holiness Pope Francis in Rome. He has also visited more than 15 countries interacting with educators from diverse socio-political and economic backgrounds. He also supports education for children in conflict and crisis programme through “Education Cannot Wait.” He believes that all of us can leave a lasting legacy on our communities and world with grit and determination.
The great potential of Africa's young people
"As a teacher who has worked on the front line of education, I have seen the promise of young African people. I also see a determination to defy the odds and be the best they can be. In fact, Africa is a continent bursting with promise. You can taste it in the air from the remotest village to the largest megacity. 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. Getting there will not be easy – it will take time, commitment, and resilience. There will be growing pains along the way, and Africa will need help from its friends around the world. But with improving educational standards, we finally have the chance to make our hopes a reality" - Peter Tabichi.
Tabichi's story that led him to victory