William Kamkwamba: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”

3 May

Before I add more stories and profiles from New York, I wanted to post another youth profile. Although I haven’t had the chance to officially interview him, I remembered the great story of William Kamkwamba, a 23-year-old from the African country of Malawi. I first heard about William when I met with Fred Swaniker, founder of the African Leadership Academy (check out their gap year program!), while I was in South Africa in 2008. The Academy was just about to begin its first year as a school, and William had been accepted as a student in its inaugural class. As we sat with Fred, he showed us the video above (Watch it!)

William’s story is that of a self-directed learner. After he was not able to afford the $80 fee to attend, William was forced to drop out of school at the age of 14. However, he was so passionate and motivated to continue to learn that he rented books from the library and gained essential knowledge that ended up helping not only him, but his entire village (only 2% of Malawians have electricity). He figured out how to construct a windmill without any how-to instructions, simply by reading a bit about them and looking at a basic picture of one in a library book. Although people in his village thought of him as crazy and unconventional in what he was trying to do, he ended up doing something pretty amazing. It’s stories like his, in which he had a lot less resources and opportunities in life to begin with, that really inspires and motivates me. If the system of education doesn’t work for you, or simply is not a possibility due to your circumstances, your education does not have to stop there. I think that sometimes we associate the words “schooling” and “education” as being the same things. We are always learning and getting an education, but we should be bringing that same drive and commitment to learning outside of a formal academic setting.

William has since given a TED talk, published a book about his story titled “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” and is attending Dartmouth University in the US. 

P.S. Anyone interested in the idea of a big Eduventurist meet-up at some point? 

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