A Palestinian teacher has been awarded the $1m (£710,000) million Global Teacher Prize for her work in schools in the region, in an announcement in a video presented by Pope Francis.

Hanan Al Hroub, from Samiha Khalil High School, Al-Bireh, Palestine, grew up in Bethlehem refugee camp where she was regularly exposed to acts of violence. She went into primary education after her children were left deeply traumatised by a shooting incident they witnessed on their way home from school. She specialises in supporting children traumatised by violence.

"I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage. I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular," Al Hroub said. "We, as teachers can build the values and morals of young minds to ensure a fair world, a more beautiful world and a more free world.

"The future seems far and ambiguous, however, when you are involved in making it, the world represents a light."

Al Hroub was awarded the Varkey Foundation's Global Teacher Prize 2016 at a ceremony taking place at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai. Messages of congratulation were sent by Pope Francis and Prince William.

"I would like to congratulate the teacher Hanan Al Hroub for winning this prestigious prize due to the importance that she gave to the 'playing' part in the education of the children," Pope Francis said. "A child has the right to play. Part of education is to teach children how to play because you learn how to be social through games as well as learn the joy of life.

"A population that is not well educated because of the wars, or by other reasons that exist in order not to get any education, is a population that decays. That is why I would like to highlight the noble profession of a teacher."

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, said: "I would like to congratulate, Hanan Al Hroub. Your work is a great inspiration and an example of the work of teachers around the world."

Matthew McConaughey and Salma Hayek as well as Indian movie stars Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan and Parineeti Chopra also attended the ceremony.

Now in its second year, the $1m award for teaching is the largest prize of its kind. The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution while shining a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

The Varkey Foundation is a non-profit organisation set up to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world.

Hanan Al Hroub
Hanan Al HroubVarkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize

Global Teacher prize 2016 finalists

  • Aqeela Asifi, who teaches children at the Kot Chandana refugee camp, Punjab, Pakistan
  • Ayub Mohamud, a business studies teacher at Eastleigh High School in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Colin Hegarty, from Preston Manor School, a comprehensive in London, UK
  • Joe Fatheree from Effingham High School, Effingham, Illinois, US
  • Kazuya Takahashi, a teacher at the Kogakuin University Junior and Senior High School, Tokyo, Japan
  • Maarit Rossi, a maths teacher at Kartanonranta School, Finland
  • Michael Soskil from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School, Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Richard Johnson, a science teacher at Rostrata Primary School, Perth, Australia
  • Robin Chaurasiya, from Kranti School, Mumbai, India