Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reflections from reading William Kamkwamba's Story

For a change, I read something with very little political content this past week- William Kamkwamba's "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind". (There is some politics in the book, as William freely shows his admiration for the Banda and Mutharika governments while showing his open disdain for the Muluzi regime, but that is a minor part of the overall story).

I have to say it has been very heartwarming to read William's story instead of the usual depressing stories about Malawi politics and the self-centred individuals who populate the Malawi political stage.
William's is a moving story and one that has received commentary in far more influential sites than this humble blog. But it is a moving read, a story that serves as a demonstration of what is possible despite the great obstacles that many of Malawian peoples encounter every day. In William's case, he shows great determination and overcame great obstacles in the quest to realize his dreams...drought and the subsequent hunger and starvation visited on his family and community in Wimbe, Kasungu; being forced to drop out of school because of lack of school fees; an un-supportive community who took his explorations on creating a windmill as a sign of madness. Against all these odds, here was William, a young boy that could hardly read or speak English and certainly not schooled in the physics of electricity generation, who still demonstrated his natural brilliance to come up with his invention and generate light for his home by simply looking at pictures from a library book .
In a country where very few have access to electricity from an unreliable power grid, William's ingenuity offers an important lesson in that there are many Malawian geniuses of his calibre that are capable of coming up with local solutions to Malawi's myriad development challenges. Just imagining what is possible if all the William Kamkwambas of Malawi could be given support to unleash their more unsafe drinking water; no more reliance on imported fertilizers; maybe some car designers that can build new cars locally and turn us into an exporting nation....some coming up with new medicines to cure us from disease and share with others outside Malawi the fruits of their discovery...the possibilities are infinite.
Sadly, the limited opportunities in our education system which prevents many William Kwamkwambas from emerging and nurturing their potential means that many inventors are out there that are not afforded the opportunities to invent. Yet, William's story teaches us more than the potential that Malawi has: it also tells us that despite countless obstacles, it is still possible to dream and translate those dreams into reality. Though belated, William, I salute you and am proud to count myself as your fellow Malawian.

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