2. What is photosynthesis and how does it contribute to your life?
Photosynthesis is the process used by almost all plants to make carbohydrates and oxygen from carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water. Without photosyntheses all the animals, including people, would starve. Photosynthesis is also responsible for almost all of the oxygen that we breathe.
3. What are chlorophylls and what is their role in photosynthesis?
Chlorophylls are a class of mostly green pigments contained in plant cells that are involved in photosynthesis. Chlorophylls absorb energy from light; this energy is then used by the cell to in the process of photosynthesis. Chlorophylls are found in many organisms including plants, algae, and phytoplankton.
4. What is subsistence farming?
It is farming that produces only enough food or other crops to sustain the farmer and his family year-to-year. Subsistence farmers are only one or two bad crop years from starvation.
5. In one of the early scenes of the movie, William’s father and mother are shown sleeping in their bed with their new baby. William’s father wakes up. What is the first thing that he does? Why does he do this?
When he gets out of bed, William’s father immediately looks out of the window at the sky to see about the weather. He then goes to William’s room to get his radio and listens to the weather report. He does this because all farmers everywhere know that the success of their efforts at farming depends, not only on their ability to work hard and smart, but upon the weather.
6. William’s father says that, “Democracy is like an imported cassava. . . It rots quickly.” Later we are shown the rally after which the Chief of the village is beaten by goons working for the President of Malawi. What is a cassava and what are these scenes intended to represent?
A cassava is a fruit. The political history of Africa is replete with dictatorial regimes that have not been responsive to their people. Western style democracy is a political system that, in Africa, has been frequently subverted by cynical leaders.
7. What does this movie tell us about the role of women in the developing countries of Africa?
The education of girls takes a back seat to the education of boys. This is true even for a girl like Annie who studied hard and made excellent grades. However, it should be noted that this is the same path that Western countries took in their development.
There are no opportunities for advancement for women in the village of Wimbe. The character of the mother says this when she tells Annie “There is no one for you in Wimbe. . . . We’ll get you off to university.” But that will only happen if there is no famine and after they pay William’s school fees. The education of the male child comes first.
8. Who are the protagonists and the antagonists in this story?
The protagonists are the Kamkwamba family. All of them meet their challenges with integrity and love. (While Annie runs away to marry the teacher, it turned out to be the right thing for her to do.) The antagonist is the weather. Nature as an antagonist is a classic conflict used in all narratives: stories, works of literature, and movies. We see it less and less as humankind has dominated nature – however, we’ll probably see more of the weather as antagonist as global warming starts to take its toll with drought, floods, and other extreme weather events. The human characters who behave badly are relatively minor: the schoolmaster, the President, and William’s cousin.
9. Was the father a failure as he said? What did William think?
There is no one correct response to this question. A strong response would be that the father failed at being able to pay for an education for his son, but he was successful in raising a child who understood the importance of education, who made a windmill, and who, as a result, received scholarships that enabled him to get the education that his family could not provide.
10. In one of the scenes, William’s family took the tin off the roof of their home and replaced it with thatch. Why did they do this?
They sold the tin to get money to buy food.
11. [Note to Teachers: One of the strengths of the story told by this film is that each member of William’s family is a richly drawn character. Ask the class to describe the conflicts that each member of the family faced, and how they resolve those conflicts.]
Suggested Response: There is no one correct response. Some strong responses are set out below.
William is intelligent, resourceful, resilient, and loving. His conflict is his difficulty in getting an education. He is stymied by his family’s inability to pay the school fees. Being a resilient boy he tries to attend science class without paying and uses the library. Then he builds the windmill.
Annie will do what is necessary for her own salvation. Her conflict is that there is nothing for her in Wimbe and no prospect that her family will be able to send her to university so that she can progress with her life. And so, she takes matters into her own hands by running away and marrying the teacher.
William’s father loves his family, works hard, and does his best. His conflict is with nature and this is something that he, like all other human beings, cannot win without technology. William’s father and his mother want to be modern people and educate their children.
William’s mother is loyal to her husband and devoted to her family. Like almost all women living in poverty she works hard. Her conflict is the same as her husband’s but tradition keeps her taking care of the home.
11. Who held the real power in this family?
Suggested Response: It was shared between the wife and the husband. They made many decisions together. The husband took the lead in many decisions during all but extreme situations. However, when things were very bad it was the wife who pushed the husband into allowing William to cut up the husband’s bicycle to build the windmill.