Michael Wamaya, a dance teacher from Mathare in Nairobi has been named a top 10 finalist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2017.
The US $1 million (Sh102m) award is the largest prize of its kind, set up to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
Mr Wamaya is a dance instructor who works for Annos Africa, a UK-based charity that offers alternative arts education to vulnerable children in Africa.
Mr Wamaya primarily works with children in Nairobi slums, teaching at Valley View School in Mathare and Spurgeon’ Child Care Kenya Academy and KAG School, both in Kibera.
“I can’t believe I’ve been nominated amongst the top 10 teachers in the world. For my work to find itself on the global stage, I’m so thankful,” he says.
The ballet teacher is no stranger to the spotlight, as his story went viral last year.
Since being featured by international outlets such as The Guardian and Al Jazeera, Wamaya says there has been an outpouring of support and donations for the children he trains.
They’ve received boxes of ballet dresses and shoes from around the world, and there have also been opportunities to compete for international dance scholarships.
Despite this, the teacher says he is happiest when the support comes from home.
“To me, that [international attention] is not important; it’s that the parents invest in ballet and they go to markets to look for ballet costumes for their children,” he says. “Even if they spend Sh200 or Sh500 on an outfit, they’ll show they care.”
Children in Wamaya’s ballet classes say they find school fun and that dancing has helped them concentrate better on their studies.