Peter Tabichi, a 36 year old Franciscan Monk from Kenya, has just won the Global Teaching prize, funded by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. This year the award was hosted by Hugh Jackman, and carries with it a $1 million prize for excellence in teaching.
Tabichi was selected from ‘over 10,000 applicants from around 179 countries’ and was one of ten finalists, which included U.K. teacher, Andrew Moffat, famous for gaining the ire of parents in Birmingham, for teaching LGBT ideology to kids, in a primary school with a large Muslim demographic.
Largely focusing on the fact that Tabichi “gives away 80 percent of his monthly income to the poor”; like most media outlets, SBS in Australia, stopped short of giving any direct mention of his Christian faith, or giving any credit to Christianity.
Maybe SBS thought, why state the obvious? This would be a legitimate excuse, had they shown a pattern of consistency with their headlines and reporting in the past.
Why single out SBS? It’s not a good look for a broadcaster whose charter claims to be the epitome of anti-racism, anti-phobias, intolerance and inclusion.
Google, “SBS Christian wins”. Then compare that with a search of, “SBS LGBT Wins”, or “SBS Muslim Wins”, and a pattern emerges.
For example (et.al):
Muslim Wins Veil Case, 22nd Aug, 2013
Muslim Woman Wins Handshake Discrimination Case, 16th Aug, 2018
Australian Muslim Challenging Mainstream Narrative, 7th Feb 2019
SBS is congratulated for not misidentifying those who self-identify as LGBT or Muslim, but their concern appears to end, when it comes to Christians, the Church or Christian theology making achievements beyond that break the negative stereotypes.
In an age where not using the correct 62+ gender specific pronoun, can land someone in prison, or see someone arrested, it’s not unfair to suggest that SBS (and others) need to do some soul searching.
If misgendering or misidentifying someone is a modern sin, why avoid a direct reference to someone being a Christian?
There aren’t too many answers to choose from:
Either, a) SBS doesn’t want to upset their viewer base, which would suggest that there’s a ton of bigotry against Christians among SBS’s viewer base; b) SBS is betraying its own anti-Christian prejudice through discriminating against Christians. c) SBS doesn’t care.
On balance, there are a few milder exceptions to the rule, The Guardian, noted that Peter was from the Franciscan Religious Order, but The Guardian avoided any direct reference to his Christian faith. In addition, The ABC didn’t do much better.
Had Peter been of the approved variety and/or minority, there’s no doubt that his Christian faith would have been mentioned, if not highlighted.
Still, given the work Peter is doing, and the difficult context he’s doing that work in, he deserves every pat on the back he gets.
According to the Varky Foundation, Peter ‘teaches Science at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, situated in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley; and takes joy in seeing his learners grow in knowledge, skills and confidence.’
The same page also noted that his
‘Students come from a host of diverse cultures and religions learn in poorly equipped classrooms. 95% 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 only one computer, poor internet, and 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.’
In January, Peter posted a short bio to his Facebook wall:
“I was raised up in a remote village, in a family of teachers. I lost my mother at the age of 11. We were brought up by our dad, who would look after everything, including preparing meals, educating us and most importantly instilling moral and Christian values in us. This tough experience taught me how to tackle various challenges of life. Growing up I saw first-hand the dedication that teachers bring to the community, and I have come to view the teacher’s role as enlightening others on how to tackle the challenges of life. I wanted to give teaching the honour it deserves. I joined the religious life because I wanted to be able to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to helping others. Your prayers and support have made everything possible. United, we can make this world a better place to live in. Thanks be to God and be blessed!”
Peter’s Christ-like example teaches us.
According to The ABC, ‘Peter plans to use the prize money to improve the school and feed the poor.’
Teachers Magazine also quoted Peter as saying,
“I’m immensely proud of my students. We lack facilities that many schools take for granted. As a teacher, I just want to have a positive impact, not only on my country but the whole of Africa. To be a great teacher, you have to be creative and use technology – you really have to promote those modern ways of teaching. You have to do more and talk less.”
Perhaps we would all benefit from Peter’s example, by acknowledging the source and motivation for it, instead of actively trying to suppress it.
References (not otherwise linked):
[i] Teachers Magazine also refused to mention Tabichi’s Christian faith.
Global Teacher Prize, Peter Tabichi
The Guardian, Teacher targeted over LGBT work shortlisted for $1m global award Sourced 25th March 2019
The Guardian, Kenyan science teacher Peter Tabichi wins $1m global award Sourced, 25th March 2019
Magdalene Wanja, Daily Nation (Kenya), 31st Dec. 2018 Award winning teacher raising hopes for poor students, sourced 25th March 2019