Mr Abdikadir Ismail, who has been a teacher for the past 20 years, is a happy man. He is proud that through his work, he has secured the future of hundreds of students, especially from pastoralist and nomadic communities.
Mr Ismail, 46, was among the top 50 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize during this year’s competition.
Despite the fact that he did not win the Sh100 million prize money, he is contented that at least his efforts were recognised globally.
When he was shortlisted for the award in December 2017, one of the considerations the Varkey Foundation made was his passion for the use of technology in teaching. Because of lack of resources and enough teachers, Mr Ismail would record practical lessons and use the recorded videos and audios to teach his students in the remote Maralal, Samburu County.
But the Kiswahili and history teacher said the recognition did not come from just class lessons, he also gives life skills to students.
“There are so many things that are not in the curriculum. I teach them life skills so as to help them live better lives,” he said, and added that he is a ‘volunteer’ teacher in this kind of coaching. This is despite the fact that he is an employee of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
“It is not about the money but the children. I have volunteered in securing their future and consequently my future,” said the Mwangaza Muslim Mixed Day School principal.
Some of the things he teaches include entrepreneurship, relationships, use of social media, the saving culture, and how to interact with each other and the community.
His passion started more than 20 years ago. When he graduated from Kenyatta University in 1996, he decided to go back to Baragoi Secondary School, where he schooled between 1987 and 1990, to teach.
“At that time there was insecurity, teachers had run away and there was no one to teach Kiswahili and history. People discouraged me, especially because of cattle rustling. But in my mind I knew that I had to secure the future of the students,” he said.
He started a drama club in the school to campaign for peace and integration among the students.
“The plays focused on peace and cattle rustling, which was one of the obstructions to learning in the school. It was also a platform for them (students) to speak out about the challenges they were facing,” he said.
The students started getting sponsorships to present their plays. He also started a football club. “The more the students appreciated soccer, the more they improved in class,” said Mr Ismail.
He became a deputy discipline master to deal with ‘errant boys’ who would sneak into the villages to drink illicit brew.
“One day I decided to go to the village to speak with the community. From then onwards, elders began caning and returning the students to school whenever they sneaked out,” he said.
He was transferred to Kirisia Boys Secondary School in Maralal, where he discovered that most of the students had dropped out of school due to lack of school fees.
Together with a fellow teacher, the late Asuka Ondigo, he convinced the school principal to start a football club. He then used the club to get scholarships for the students.
“Some students used to walk for more than 12 kilometres to and from school. There were morans and young mothers; most of them could not afford school fees,” said Mr Ismail.
He then introduced a Sh50 a day saving plan for their parents. Given that school fees at that time was Sh4,500 per term, Sh50 per day would translate to full fees at the end of the term.
“At least at the end of the term they would finish paying. I also received support from 13 volunteers who decided to sponsor some of the students,” he said.
His work impressed many NGOS, which helped him set up greenhouses. These were run by the students. He also started chicken keeping as well as drip irrigation. “By the time I left the school in 2016, it had become a demonstration centre for the community,” he said.
At Mwangaza Muslim Mixed Day School, still in Maralal, he introduced the Sh50 saving culture, but this time round he introduced a paybill number for parents to be sending the Sh50.
Mr Ismail is a trainer with the British Council and Microsoft. “I train teachers on competency-based curriculum, information communication and technology integration.”