A Kenyan Monk Who Gave Away Most of His Earnings Just Won a $1 Million Teaching Prize

Peter Tabichi was chosen from among 10,000 candidates for the prestigious prize. Snapshot from YouTube/The Varkey Foundation

For Peter Tabichi, Sunday was a day of firsts — the first time he had travelled so far, his first time on a plane.

But for Africa, it was the most profound first of all — the first time a teacher from the continent was awarded the Global Teacher Prize.

"I feel great. I can't believe it. I feel so happy to be among the best teachers in the world, being the best in the world," he told The Associated Press after accepting the prize.

Peter Tabichi on stage with Hugh Jackman at the Global Teacher Prize ceremony
Pater Tabichi accepted the Global Teacher Prize from host Hugh Jackman at Sunday's ceremony. The Varkey Foundation

The accolade, awarded by the Varkey Foundation, honors one exceptional teacher every year, and includes a $1 million prize.

You might already be able to guess how he plans to spend that windfall. This is, after all, a man who chose to teach kids at an under-equipped, underfunded school in a remote Kenyan village — all the while giving 80 percent of his salary to the poor.

This is also a member of the Franciscan order of monks, an organization founded by the poverty-embracing St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.

Brother Peter, as he's called, surprised no one by announcing that he will use the money to improve the school and feed the poor.

Certainly, the community that he teaches in — a drought-ridden swathe of Kenya's Rift Valley — could certainly use that bounty.

Just like they have basked in the bounty that is Brother Peter.

According to a statement from the Varkey Foundation, Tabichi was instrumental in bringing an end to the tribal violence that wracked the region after 2007. He established a "peace club" at the school, inviting representatives from all the different tribes. He also created a common program for prayer and worship, with pupils from each religion leading it.

Peter Tabichi close-up in classroom
Tabichi gives 80 percent of his monthly salary back to the community. Snapshot from YouTube/The Varkey Foundation

And he didn't stop there. With food security being a major source of friction in the region, Tabichi spent years teaching the locals how to grow famine-resistant crops.

"Food insecurity is a major problem, so teaching new ways of farming is a matter of life and death," Tabichi noted on the release.

But of course, the humble friar's heart has always been in the classroom.

That's where he instilled a love for science in countless students — a passion that would lead them to win an unprecedented number of national and international competitions, including an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom.

The judges, according to Global Teacher Prize, saw a man who had "dramatically improved his pupils' achievement."

Many of of students have managed to overcome "severely constrained" resources to enroll in university.

Not only has Tabichi earned a potentially game-changing prize for his community, but also admiration for his efforts from around the world.

Even Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, offered heartfelt thanks to the humble friar for inspiring countless young people and being a "shining example of what the human spirit can achieve."

"On behalf of all Kenyans let me congratulate you on winning the Global Teacher Prize for this year. You are a shining example of what the human spirit can achieve not just for Kenya, not just for Africa but the world."

You can watch Tabichi's inspiring journey below: