Malawi ingenuity as an example of local empowerment, as told to EDU Secretary General H.E. Irving Levance.

 

On a briefing visit, EDU Secretary-General met with Deputy Ambassador Oliver M.C. Kumbambe to assess areas of potential cooperation.

Mr. Kumbambe gave an impressive briefing on the current education situation in the Republic of Malawi. The education system follows the British model and Mr. Kumbambe acknowledges that the Government believes that a new approach to accreditation is required to worldwide acceptance of qualifications more transparent. Currently, no accreditation system exists for Higher Education although a Council for Higher Education is being formed to deal with the issue. This is ongoing.

The Government has identified capacity building in the area of accreditation to be a priority for both public and private universities.

Mr. Kumbambe was ably assisted in his briefing by First Secretary for Tourism, Mr. Herbert N. Chihana who confirmed that current priorities included improving the quality in training for service industry employees, and especially standards in the hospitality industry and eco-tourism.

Mr. Kumbambe agreed that the aims and policies of the Intergovernmental Organization EDU were very compatible with the established education priorities of Republic of Malawi and that formal participation would be in the interests of his country. He agreed to act as the point of contact for the initialization of the process to become a participant.

When the Secretary General asked about the importance attached to the preservation of local capacity and capabilities, which is an established EDU concern, he was told the inspiring story of William Kamkwamba, the Malawian inventor and author. He gained fame in his country when, in 2002, he built a windmill to power a few electrical appliances in his family's house in Masitala using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies the first drinking water in his village and two other windmills (the tallest standing at 39 feet) and is planning two more, including one in Lilongwe, the political capital of Malawi. H.E. Irving Levance of EDU with Malawi Deputy Ambassador

After being forced to drop out of school due to his family not being able to afford the tuition (US$80), he took up self-education by going to his village's library. There, he found the book Using Energy and in it discovered a picture and explanation of windmills. He then decided to try to create the windmills he read about. After a few attempts, he was able to build a working model.

Kamkwamba is one of four recipients of the 2010 GO Ingenuity Award, a prize awarded by the Santa Monica–based non-profit GO Campaign to inventors, artists, and makers to promote the sharing of their innovations and skills with marginalized youth in developing nations. With the grant, Kamkwamba is holding workshops for youth in his home village, teaching them how to make windmills and repair water pumps, both of which proved to be transformative skills for this young African leader.

He is currently studying at Dartmouth College, Class of 2014.

His story is told in: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, written with journalist Bryan Mealer and published in 2009.

 

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