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With the widespread famine only getting worse, William has something new to distract him. William did not earn high enough grades in primary school to attend either of the two secondary schools he hoped to get into. He has been assigned to Kachokolo instead, which he says is one of the worst. William and Gilbert walk to the secondary school in Kachokolo each day, until the headmaster announces that everyone needs to pay school fees. William tells his father, knowing that the family has nothing. His father tells him that “next year will be better.”
People become more desperate in the village. People steal cakes from William’s mother, which stops her from buying more flour. Paranoid about the government, many people withdraw any money they have from the banks. William sees more and more starving people, filling the trading center and along the roads. With the government grain stores empty and no crops remaining, many people start dying. In a radio interview, the president of Malawi claims that “nobody has died of hunger.”
While famine, instability, and a new school push against William’s desire for change, these struggles provide a new perspective on the world, signaling William’s perseverance. Education fills him with purpose. When he finds out that his grades are not enough to get him into the schools he wanted, he meets this obstacle with the rationality of his father. He accepts the situation and is determined to take the tests again in two years to transfer to a better school. For now, though, he chooses not to dwell on the long walk to school or the deteriorated state of the schoolhouse, but rather celebrates when he gets to walk with his friend Gilbert every day. His hope seems miraculous as the situation around him deteriorates. Even his own family fights each other over food when they used to work together. The rainy season brings hope for a better future, but bugs and diseases come along with the rain. But William maintains an objective perspective. By looking at a map in his textbook, he notes that although Malawi is his entire world, it is tiny in comparison to everything else. This gives him perspective on his struggle. William sees that his problems are small by comparison and that the entire country is suffering just as much, often worse, than him.