translated from Spanish: Peter Tabichi, Franciscan, scientist and the best teacher in the world who seeks to make his students global citizens

Tabichi caused a furore in Kenya last March by gaining that recognition with the award of the Global Te 2019 acher Prize, with one million dollars (about 900,000 euros).
“It’s not just about academic success, it’s also about making people who can fit into society, global citizens,” this 36-year-old teacher who, in addition to teaching, is a Franciscan brother, explains to Efe about his students.
While it may seem incongruous to use the adjective “global” in a place like the village of Pwani – secluded, often punished by drought and a certain poverty – Tabichi uses innovative technology and educational methods to broaden the horizon of his students.
Teacher family
This Kenyan, born in Nyamira County (southwest), grew up in a family of teachers, “in a very humble context”, and experienced in his own flesh the outdated methods of traditional education, something he took as a “challenge”.
“It was a more theory-based education. They could draw the flower instead of showing us a real one,” he recalls.
Now, however, Tabichi jokes with his students during his classes, in simple, earthy-walled classrooms. To teach the elements of matter, it invites them to stand up, vibrate or remain frozen as different types of particles would.
Students ask and burst into laughter, because everything fits into the lessons of the young teacher. His teaching even overflows with the school grounds and often leads him to visit the families of his students.
“This morning, for example, I visited some houses before I came to school,” is something that allows you to “understand the whole scene, see things hidden,” she says.
Science Club
While Nakuru County, where Pwani is located, is not part of the poorest areas of the country, about 95% of students in the school where Tabichi practices come from poor families and almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, depending on the organization awards the award each year, the Varkey Foundation.
Some students have to travel long distances each morning on unpaved roads to attend class, such as Salome Njeri (20 years), who walks about 50 minutes.
This young woman participates in the school’s Science Club, founded by Tabichi, and was one of the students selected for the 2018 Kenya Science and Engineering Fair, after inventing a device that allows blind people to measure objects.
They were also selected for the International Science and Engineering Fair, held this year in Arizona, united states, where they won first prize in their category.
“Peter Tabichi was our mentor from the beginning, because there is this belief that girls can’t do anything, and we face a lot of problems, such as our peers, especially boys, from being discouraged. He always told us we could go far,” Njeri says of this “unique” teacher.
Tabichi is well aware of the added obstacles that his students may encounter in this society because they are women.
“When you want to empower society, you have to identify where that empowerment is most needed and there are some rules that actually prohibit girls from doing certain things,” he says.
Teacher Prize 2019
Despite his fine tone and away from the claim, this Franciscan has clear convictions that were evident on the day of delivery of the Global Teacher Prize 2019 in Dubai, when he collected the prize dressed in his religious habit, which he does not use daily.
“The brown color of our habit is associated with the earth, which is an element of simplicity and humility. I’m proud to be associated with Mother Earth,” she says.
Earth and technology come back in the lessons of Peter Tabichi, who, on the one hand, teaches horticulture to combat food insecurity in the area and, on the other hand, uses information and communication technologies in his classes.
At the moment, the school has only one computer and a precarious internet connection, a problem that the teacher wants to solve with the money included in the prize.
Despite the lack of media from this public centre, teachers can teach in spacious, furnished classrooms, with brick walls and under metal roofs painted sky blue.
In addition, the compound includes a bucolic and discreet grove at Tabichi’s initiative: planting trees for peace.
Following Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007, some students lost family members and, with the presence of some seven different ethnic groups in the school’s classrooms, “had to find a way to unite them,” so he founded the Peace Club.
“It’s something that can make them feel full as global citizens and not as members of a specific ethnicity,” he reflects.
Peter Tabichi’s success brought great joy throughout Kenya – even congratulated by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta – and he received congratulations around the world.
But for him, it is not a personal merit but a “great achievement of Africa’s youth.”
Tabichi takes advantage of the award to vindicate the work of teachers around the world. “Teachers,” he concludes, “matter and can be great drivers of change. They deserve the same recognition as doctors or artists.”

Original source in Spanish

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