Peter Tabichi, the Kenyan science teacher who won the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019, was honoured to meet His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican on Tuesday January 07, 2020.
Tabichi, a Franciscan Brother who gives away 80 percent of his salary to help the poor in his community, met the Pope following a Holy Mass in the Chapel of St. Martha at the Pope’s official residence, attended by around 20 people.
In a press release to the media on Thursday, Tabichi says the Pope shook his hand, gave him a rosary, and they held a brief conversation about the importance of the teaching profession following the service.
Peter Tabichi said…“It was a tremendous honour to meet His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican. As a Franciscan Brother teaching in remote school in rural Kenya, it was such an inspiration to me, and one that will spur me to go on doing everything I can to help turn around the lives of the poorest students and families in my community.”
Since Tabichi was announced winner of the Global Teacher Prize in March last year, he has been honoured to open the US Congress with the Prayer of Saint Francis on a visit to Washington; speak at the UN after being appointed as the first “Champion for Children in Conflicts and Crisis” for Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in crisis; and be greeted by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who called him an inspiration to society.
Tabichi 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.
At least 95 percent 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.
Turning lives around in a school with a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, is no easy task, not least when to reach the school, students must walk 7km along roads that become impassable in the rainy season.
Undeterred, Tabichi started a talent nurturing club and expanded the school’s Science Club, helping pupils design research projects of such quality that 60 percent now qualify for national competitions.
Tabichi 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.
His students, who had never stepped on a plane before, went on to win the UN Sustainable Development Goal Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Phoenix, Arizona this year.
Despite teaching in a school with only one desktop computer with an intermittent internet connection, Tabichi uses ICT in 80 percent of his lessons to engage students, visiting internet cafes and caching online content to be used offline in class.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a