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Science teacher from Kenya gets $1M for donating salary to poor students

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A science teacher from Kenya who donates most of his salary to help poorer students has been crowned the world’s best teacher and awarded a $1m prize, beating 10,000 nominations from 179 countries.

Peter Tabichi, 36, a maths and physics teacher at Keriko secondary school in Pwani Village, in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, has won the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019.

Tabichi, a member of the Franciscan religious order, received his prize at a ceremony in Dubai hosted by actor Hugh Jackman.

Tabichi gives away 80% of his income to help the poorest students at the poorly-equipped and overcrowded school who could otherwise not afford uniforms and books.

More than 90% of his pupils are from poor families and almost a third are orphans or have only one parent. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common. Students have to walk 7km along roads that can become impassable in the rainy season to reach the school and the area can be affected by drought and famine.

Despite only having one computer, a poor internet connection and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, Tabichi started a “talent nurturing club” and expanded the school’s science club, helping pupils design research projects of such quality that many now qualify for national competitions.

His students have taken part in international science competitions and won an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity.

Tabichi and four colleagues also give struggling pupils one-to-one tuition in maths and science, visiting students’ homes and meeting their families to identify the challenges they face.

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