By Caroline Chebet, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, The Standard.
Published 26 March 2019.
As a testament of his generosity that helped him bag Sh100 million in a global competition, Peter Tabichi (pictured) has included his school, the local community and needy students in his grand plans of using his new-found windfall.
Mr Tabichi wants to build a computer laboratory at his school, Keriko Day Secondary School. The school, in remote parts of Lare, in Njoro, Nakuru County, has been thrust into the world stage after his win in the Global Teacher Award. Also in his plan is an agricultural project to benefit the community, sponsor bright and needy students as well as programmes to motivate fellow teachers.
The teacher, a devout follower of the Catholic Church’s Franciscan Brotherhood, whose main focus is to empower the rural poor through education, sustainable agriculture and peace building, is staying true to his religious course; that of a simple lifestyle and using talents and gifts to make the world a better world, despite his recent stardom.
His permanent smile almost makes it unbelievable that he’s an outstanding maths and physics teacher, subjects that sound far much tougher for his mien.
His talks, too, are always brief and straight to the point with words carefully and cautiously selected before being rolled out, again, slowly and cautiously. Tabichi is currently trending globally after bagging the Global Teacher Award on Sunday evening to the surprise of many.
“It was almost unbelievable; it almost sounded like a dream when my name was called out as the winner. It was then that we stared at each other in awe as we let it sink in. It is all God’s doings,” said Tabichi.
His passion for teaching, however, remains unrivaled, just as he loves his religion as punctuated by his ceremonial flowing Brotherhood gown he wears while attending church.
“He is a church guy. Great mentor and a staunch believer,” Dennis Mainge, one of his students aptly described him.
Tabichi, not only broke history as the first African teacher to bag the much-converted award but also broke the record as the first-ever male teacher to win the Sh100 million award.
The teacher, despite his low profile, has remained an icon in his small village school, located 10 kilometres from the nearest tarmac road. Here, Tabichi is a mentor, a go-to person, a best friend, a spiritual leader, a science expert and one of the best teachers.
“He is one extraordinary teacher. Eighty per cent of his salary goes to supporting others, not only from this school but also two other schools. He writes cheques to the school so that the money goes towards clearing fees for needy students. He deserved this more than anyone,” said Daniel Mwariri, the school principal. For the students, the win did not come as a surprise.
“Who can beat his generosity? I always prayed for him, I knew the money was his when we were told he was competing against his colleagues globally. With his dedication, I knew he would place us in the global map,” Sharon Mukua, a Form Four student said.
Mukua is among the beneficiaries of the teacher’s generous donations towards clearing school fees. Tabichi’s contributions with the Fransiscan Brothers pulled up her fading dreams of becoming an engineer. The clergy, too, who form the Board of Management of the school, say Tabichi’s contributions has changed not only the community through initiatives but also the morals of the students.
“We have felt the power of his contributions together with the Franciscan Brotherhood. He has equipped the only science laboratory we have. He has created a positive embrace of science subjects and this has seen our students top national science fairs,” said Bishop Elijah Thuo.
Tabichi’s love for teaching runs in the family. His father, three uncles and four cousins, were teachers. His win, he says, is God’s favour, dedication and hard work.
With a perception that teaching was the most treasured profession whose role was to enlighten as well as solve challenges in life, Tabichi took up teaching graduating from Egerton University.
He has taught in three schools, two in Kenya and one in Uganda. His motivation to dedicate his salary to the students, he says, was because of the poor backgrounds of students at Keriko Day Secondary where teaches.
Whereas high-performing students from neighbouring primary schools were admitted to top schools, Keriko Day enrolled students with low marks. Students that other schools considered weak.
“I requested my fellow Franciscan Brothers to assist in equipping the school laboratory and we purchased equipment worth Sh500,000. I also worked on the self-esteem of the students and started a Talent Nurturing Club and finally a Science Club where students started taking an interest in sciences,” he says.
Last year, 60 per cent of the science projects in school qualified for the national competitions, with the school emerging the best public school in the region.
“Mathematical Science team qualified to participate in Intel International Science and Engineering fair in Arizona, US in May. This achievement has boosted self-esteem and also improvement in Sciences and reduced cases of indiscipline. Enrolment too has shot up from 200 students in 2013 to 475 currently,” he added.
Through the Science Club, he mentored students during the Kenya Science and Engineering fair 2018 where the school emerged as the best public school in the country.
This achievement was recognised by the Teachers Service Commission, Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa, Royal Society of Chemistry and National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation.
Read the full story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.