Monday, July 2, 2007

Educational Potential Everywhere

I would like to highlight a story that I came across regarding the potential of young minds in Africa and the need to provide them with educational opportunities so they can embark on the path to prosperity. William Kamkwamba, a 19 year old student from Malawi, is an example of what these young minds can achieve when they strive to be academically enriched.

William's story begins when at the age of 14 he was forced to drop out of high school because his parents could no longer afford the school fees. Dedicated to continue learning, but no longer in school, William often visited his local library to check out books about the subjects he was interested in. He happened upon a book called Using Energy, a textbook about how energy is made. Inside the book were plans for building a windmill to generate electricity. With plenty of time on his hands and considering his entire village had no electricity, William decided to try and build the windmill. Using sticks, spare bicycle parts and a few other cheap supplies, William was able to contruct his windmill for only $15. The project was successful. Over the next few years he modified the windmill to increase its output. Adding a fourth blade to the original three and raising it higher, from 5 meters to 12 meters, to receive better air flow. The windmill is able to power lights for three rooms inside his family's house as well as a light outside, two radios and his neighbors' cell phones.

Eventually, word of this reamarkable achievement spread and William's windmill was covered in the local media. He found a mentor in a local doctor and the publicity raised enogh money to send him back to school. William's efforts were deemed so admirable that he was invited to the recent (Technology Entertainment Design) TED Global Conference in Tanzania this June as one of 100 special fellows, along with Bono, Jane Goodall and many famous African musicians and scholars. Arriving in Arusha, Tanzania, on a plane during his first time out of Malawi was part of a series of firsts for William, he soon used a computer and the internet for the first time as well. At the conference, he showed a slideshow of the windmill project and was interviewed on stage.

Attending school now takes up the majority of William's time, but he has had the opportunity to visit some local Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that deal with the same kinds of energy work that he stumbled into. William plans on building a second windmill that will power an irrigation pump to water his garden. With his experiences, education and publicity, William will likely go on to do incredible things. His eagerness and enthusiasm for learning is an example for everyone. Use your educational opportunities to the fullest because there are those out there like William that want learn and succeed, but dont always have the opportunity because of poverty and other hardships. Funding educational programs for children, becoming a teacher, or even volunteering are all ways people can help make the future bright for all of those young minds out there.

To follow William's progress check out his blog called William Kamkwamba's Malawi Windmill Blog.

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