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The book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the story of a young Malawian man who despite coming from a very poor family built windmills that could generate electricity at the age of 14 years. One of the worst famines hit Malawi in 2002 and forced William Kamkwamba to drop out of school since his parents could not afford school fees for him. This paper will discuss about how William’s family, especially William and his father, valued education that despite being poor William struggled to acquire and learn new ideas that could not only help him but his village as well.
William studied at Wimbe Primary School. Despite coming from a poor family, his father struggled to educate him through primary and he completed eighth grade. He got admitted to Kochokolo secondary but could not continue with education because of a severe drought in Malawi. His family was lacking $80 annual fees and he had to leave school for five years. We are told that despite William coming from a poor family, his father would take him and his sisters to school. However, this was disrupted when Malawi was gripped by one of the worst famines the country had witnessed.
William was thus forced to drop out of school in 2002 because his father, a tobacco and maize farmer, could not afford pay for his school. He was determined to get education despite this setback. It was then that he decided to visit a local library that had been opened at his old primary school. The school was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He began teaching himself and got interested in physics. He was especially fascinated by a tattered old British English science book. Although he did not have a good grasp of the English language, he would try to grasp ideas and could study photos and diagrams a lot. His quest for education also saw him borrow a grade 8th textbook called Using Energy where he studied windmill diagrams.
William searched scrap metal and despite being called crazy by people he continued till he eventually build a machine that could produce some few volts. Some more trials found him with more machines and soon he found himself travelling around the world to tell his story. In spite of the newly acquired fame and status, William stated that with the windmill, there was no “more skipping breakfast nor dropping out of school”. This shows that he was still concerned that he dropped from school. Therefore, to him a windmill meant more than the fame, it was a representation of freedom.
Finally, William enrolled at Madisi Secondary School to see his dream about education come true. He studied one trimester there before he moved to African Bible College Christian Academy. He went on to complete his first unabridged year in the 2008. William’s love for education made him spend time at Regents Language Institute in the UK, where he studied immersion during the summer 2008. A pan-African preparatory school was newly opened in South Africa whose aim has been to teach the next generation of African students with ethical training, entrepreneurship, design and educate them with thorough academic skills. William was one of the 97 students to enter the academy in September, 2008 and he graduated in 2010.
William’s quest for education did not stop there after graduating from South Africa. He later enrolled at Dartmouth College in the U.S. in the autumn of 2010. This shows us how William refused to let go off his dreams of getting education, becoming an inspiration not only to the people in his village but all over the world. I believe that even the theme of the book should be the transformative power of education. It is the story of a boy who could educate himself and learn how to make people “see light.”