Top teacher wins $1m and gives half away

A teacher from a village school in India, praised for improving the education of girls, has won this year’s Global Teacher Prize.

But Ranjitsinh Disale has already given away half of the $1m (£750,000) – sharing it with runners-up in the competition.

A special Covid Hero prize was won by Jamie Frost, a UK teacher who ran a free maths tuition website.

The winners were announced by Stephen Fry in an online ceremony.

Mr Disale, who teaches in the Zilla Parishad Primary School, in the drought-prone village of Paritewadi, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, was named the world’s most exceptional teacher, ahead of 12,000 other nominations.

Education a ‘birthright’

“In this hard time, teachers are giving their best to make sure every student has access to their birthright of a good education,” said Mr Disale, aged 32.

Teachers “always believe in giving and sharing”, he said, and as such was sharing half his prize money among the other teachers shortlisted in the top 10.

Mr Disale was praised by the competition’s judges for his work to ensure disadvantaged girls went to school and achieved high results – rather than missing out on school and facing early marriage.

He also provides online science lessons for pupils in 83 countries and runs an international project building connections between young people in conflict zones.

“The Covid pandemic has dealt a severe blow to education systems around the world… but it is the contribution of teachers during these difficult times that is making the difference,” said Stefania Giannini, assistant director general of Unesco, a partner in the competition.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation that set up the teachers’ competition, said “by sharing the prize you teach the world the importance of giving”.

‘Covid hero’

Mr Disale’s decision to split the prize will mean over £40,000 each for runners-up from countries including Italy, Brazil, Vietnam, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, the US and also Jamie Frost from the UK.

Mr Frost, a teacher from Tiffin School in Kingston-upon-Thames, was commended for his work running the DrFrostMaths online learning platform, which helped families with children trying to study from home during the lockdowns.

He also won a special one-off Covid Hero prize worth about £34,000.

The maths teacher warned that the pandemic had widened educational inequalities.

“That is why I have spent every hour I could adapting my free online learning platform to help students across the globe shut out of their classrooms,” said Mr Frost.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the “creativity and ingenuity” of Mr Frost and the winning teachers.

“Although I’m speaking to you in difficult and sometimes heartbreaking circumstances, it’s right that we take time to recognise the enormous contribution and sacrifice of the world’s teachers during this pandemic,” said Mr Johnson.

Next year there will also be a prize for students, run with the US educational technology firm, Chegg.