William and his family place a huge value on education, as one of the only ways for a rural Malawian to improve his or her life. Though the actual conditions of William’s primary school are dismal due to over-crowding and under-funding, William focuses on the positive aspects of gaining an education. When William’s grades are not enough to gain entry into a top-tier, government-favored secondary school, William applies himself to learning as much as he can on his own. He scrapes together money for school funds at the local secondary school, and studies on his own when the school fees are too high.
William also applies what he learns to practical improvements in the village. He uses his natural aptitude for science and engineering to learn from the few physics textbooks in his local library to build new inventions like the windmill, to make his family’s life easier and eventually benefit all the farmers in his rural village. As a presenter at TED Talks global, a conference that focuses on how technology, entertainment, and design can benefit mankind, William meets and forms a community with many other brilliant innovators who are committed to improving quality of life in Africa. William celebrates the overall vision of TED Talks to bring education to more people, and the specific application of TED ideas in Africa. William begins to reframe his goal of getting an education and helping his community to aid other rural students in getting a formal education so that they too can contribute to the well-being of their communities. William sees the ripple effect of bringing better schools, curriculums, and especially science programs to rural Malawi as far more beneficial than any one of his inventions.
Beyond education, William also sees entrepreneurship as essential to building a better future for Malawi. These ideals go back to William’s family, who started their own businesses without any formal training and were able to provide for their children. William’s father’s brother founded the farm that William’s father works on, which allowed William to go to school in the first place. During the famine, William’s parents put the principles of entrepreneurship to work again. They make the best out of a bad situation by starting a small food stand to keep some income and food flowing in for the family. William sees entrepreneurship as a way for people to come back from hardship and actually improve their lives. Working in tandem with a better education, new businesses have the potential to help the next generation of Malawians have better lives than their parents. Through education and entrepreneurship, William imagines a bright future not only for his village, but for all of Malawi and all of Africa.
Education and Entrepreneurship ThemeTracker
Education and Entrepreneurship Quotes in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
We traveled four hours north to the Wimbe trading center, where my relatives were waiting to greet us. They helped us move down the road to Masitala village and into a one-room house near Uncle John.
This is where my father became a farmer and my childhood began.
“We know this man has left behind some riches, and these treasures include his kids. We'd like to advise his brothers to take full control of these children. Make sure they finish their secondary education as they would have if their father had been alive. And in regards to the material wealth, we don't want to hear of troubles in the family as a result. If anyone here wants to help this family, help the children with clothing and school fees.”
Since we learned everything through experimenting, a great many radios were sacrificed for our knowledge. I think we had one radio from each aunt and uncle and neighbor, all in a giant tangle of wires we kept in a box in Geoffrey’s room. But after we learned from our mistakes, people began bringing us their broken radios and asking us to fix them.
But bringing electricity to my home would take more than a simple bicycle dynamo, and my family couldn't even afford one of those. After a while I kind of stopped thinking about it altogether and focused on more important things. One of them, for instance, was graduating from primary school.
“I’m ashamed to see this school broken in such fashion. We should tear the whole place down and start from scratch, build it again strong and proud! Teachers’ houses also need to be shipshape, and students need new desks and books!”
Of course, the crowds cheered and applauded at this. But instead of buying us new desks, he sent men into our blue gum grove to chop down our trees to build them. Even then, there weren't enough.
And through them, I was able to grasp principles like magnetism and induction and the differences between AC and DC. It was as if my brain had long ago made a place for these symbols, and once I discovered them in these books, they snapped right into place.
What is this? I thought. Pulling it out, I saw it was an American textbook called Using Energy, and this book has since changed my life.
The cover featured a long row of windmills - though at the time I had no idea what a windmill was.
At least with daughters, like my sister Annie, a father can hope they'll marry a husband who can provide a home and food, even help them continue their schooling. But with a boy it's different. My education meant everything to my father.
Just then a gust of wind slammed against my body, and the blades kicked up like mad. The tower rocked once, knocking me off balance. I wrapped my elbow around the wooden rung as the blades spun like furious propellers behind my head. I held the bulb before me, waiting for my miracle. It flickered once. Just a flash at first, then a surge of bright, magnificent light. My heart nearly burst.
In Malawi, we say these people are “grooving” through life, just living off small ganyu and having no real plan. I started worrying that I would become like them, that one day the windmill project would lose its excitement or become too difficult to maintain, and all my ambitions would fade into the maize rows. Forgetting dreams is easy. To fight that kind of darkness, I kept returning to the library every week.
But Geoffrey was scared we would be arrested by the authorities for messing with their frequencies. People were also saying this nonsense about my windmill: “You better be careful or ESCOM power will come arrest you.”
If the first people to experiment with great inventions such as radios, generators, or airplanes had been afraid of being arrested, we'd never be enjoying those things today.
“Let them come arrest me,” I'd say. “It would be an honor.”
But the most amazing thing about TED wasn’t the Internet, the gadgets, or even the breakfast buffets with three kinds of meat, plus eggs and pastries and fruits that I dreamed about each night. It was the other Africans who stood onstage each day and shared their stories and vision of how to make our continent a better place for our people.
I took a deep breath and gave it my best. “After I drop out from school, I went to library… and I get information about windmill…” Keep going keep going. . . “And I try and I made it.”
My fellow students and I talk about creating a new kind of Africa, a place of leaders instead of victims, a home of innovation rather than charity. I hope this story finds its way to our brothers and sisters out there who are trying to elevate themselves and their communities, but who may feel discouraged by their poor situation.