Kenyan teacher Michael Wamaya has been shortlisted as one of the Top 10 Global Teacher Prize finalists by British based charity the Varkey Foundation.
Michael’s story is inspirational. After having to drop out of high school near Lake Victoria due to financial constraints, his future looked bleak. But a chance audition with a visiting Kenya Performing Arts Group gave him the opportunity to move to Nairobi and study dance.
This led him to became a dance instructor, and in 2009 he joined Anno’s Africa. The UK-based charity offers an alternative arts education to orphans and vulnerable children in some of Africa’s most desperately deprived areas. It places a particular focus on those living in slum conditions in Kenya.
Home to 700,000 people, Nairobi’s Kibera slum may seem an unlikely setting for a ballet school. However, with the help of Michael’s dedicated teaching, his students in both Kibera and Mathare have become accomplished dancers. Some have even won scholarships to further their education and over Christmas, a group performed The Nutcracker at the Kenya National Theatre.
“With Michael’s tutoring and mentorship, this alternative art project has provided a safe space for children to grow, develop their skills and access opportunities. Here he combines the teaching of dance skills with social skills, with many other teachers commenting that his ballet classes have also had a positive effect on students’ wider academic work. Michael’s encouragement of pride and self-awareness amongst his young students has also helped turn around dropout rates and teenage pregnancy rates for those attending his lessons.
“His programme explores their individual human potential and creativity in a much broader sense: who they are, what they think and believe, what they want for their futures, which has brought them a lot of confidence and self-esteem. At the same time, needy children within the programme have gained scholarships, enabling them to finish their studies, and the programme has created a platform where children can engage in creative activities while developing their artistic careers.”
– Varkey Foundation
This is the second time in as many months we have reported about an inspirational dance teacher in Kibera. Last month, English National Ballet star Isabelle Brouwers worked with the Ballet Club class at the Spurgeons Academy which supports orphaned children in the Nairobi slum.
In last year’s awards, British teacher Colin Hegarty and Kenyan teacher Ayub Mohamud made the final shortlist, but were unfortunately not chosen as the overall winner.