120 students: one microscope
Imagine teaching science to a class of 120 students and only having one microscope for them all to share. That is often the reality for Peter Tabichi, science teacher and winner of the 2019 Global Teacher Prize who visited the National STEM Learning Centre in York.
Peter teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, situated in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, which experiences famine and drought every three to five years. Pupils from mostly poor backgrounds and different tribes and religions walk up to seven kilometres to get to school, where there is one desktop computer for the whole school and they have never heard of Wi-Fi.
After touring the centre, observing some teacher CPD and science practicals in the laboratories as well as the resources centre, Peter spoke to STEM Learning staff to share his story.
“I have been selected to represent what teachers do, to show how important teachers are,” he said, thanking both his students, and his own teachers, who inspired him to stay in education, be interested in science, and go on to university.
Peter explained how 85% of children in the school are ‘low achievers’ and it is sometimes a challenge to teach them, but he maintains his belief that “every child can achieve, every child deserves a good education”; a mantra that guides his work.
He outlined how he overcomes some of the many challenges he and his pupils face, improvising science apparatus and making use of the resources they have available; for example demonstrating friction using a box of matches. He also emphasised the importance of his students being aware that they are global citizens, and that “they need to learn creative problem-solving skills, as we have many problems in Africa”.
Peter rose to global prominence after students at Keriko School won international awards, competing against thousands of schools worldwide. The resulting publicity created a demand for places at the school, noticeably amongst girls who now comprise more than half of the school roll, and are showing a keen interest in STEM subjects.
Concluding, he told the audience “Whoever you are, you don’t have to do anything extraordinary; just do the ordinary things with passion and love. Every child has a gift, it’s our responsibility to nurture it.”