Maharishi Invincibility Institute aims to develop 100 000 leaders
CN&CO’s Colin Ford and Kurt Solomon recently attended an information session at the Maharishi Invincibility Institute in Johannesburg, where they were treated to a major dose of wow by the institute’s founder and leader, social entrepreneur Taddy Blecher.
Taddy grew up in a home where education was placed above physical comfort.
“We went to the best schools and universities, but at home we slept on foam mattresses on the floor,” he said. “We had no money in the house when we were very young. And then later on, through everyone getting educated, everything changed for our family.”
Through sheer hard work and determination, Taddy’s father put himself through university, where he studied medicine, ultimately becoming a gynaecologist/obstetrician.
“My father put over 30 people through school and university, and many of those people became super wealthy and successful all over the world. So I have seen first-hand that education really does change everything for a family.”
Taddy started his career as an actuary in the mid-nineties. In 1995 he was about to leave SA to settle in America when he was overcome with a desire to stay and do something positive for the people of his home country. Within a week, instead of being in America, he was teaching in Alexandra, an extremely impoverished township north of Johannesburg.
“I spent four and a half years in Alex,” he said. “It was actually the best time of my life! I can’t tell you how much I loved that time. My mom once cut the front-page news story out of The Star newspaper. The article pointed out that London Road, Alexandra, is the most dangerous road in the whole world. I was riding up there every single day!”
Through his work in Alex, and then in Soweto and the Joburg CBD, Taddy and his team helped more than 9 000 high school children to improve their grades.
“Many of them were getting As and Bs, and then coming out of matric only to end up on the streets because they couldn’t afford to go to university. It was soul-destroying to see these amazing young people we’d worked with not being valued by society or getting the opportunities they deserved.”
And then one day in 1999, Taddy had a brainwave: “Could we start the first free university in the country?”
That brainwave became CIDA City Campus.
“We started a ‘university’ with no money, no buildings, no textbooks, no teachers, no accreditation… absolutely nothing. We had to build everything from zero, and it was very, very hard to do.”
But he and a small team of committed individuals did it!
In 2007, Taddy left CIDA and started the Maharishi Invincibility Institute, which offers free education to thousands of young people via 13 campuses in five countries. The institute is 70% self-funding, with students carrying out campus maintenance and running various functions for a number of companies including Nando’s, Multichoice and Imvula Securities. A lot of the institute’s funding also comes from alumni, while the rest is sponsored by the private sector.
The Maharishi Invincibility Institute currently has more than 1 000 registered students in fields as diverse as financial markets, cyber security and consciousness studies (including transcendental meditation and yoga).
Students are provided with a holistic education in an environment that promotes academics and personal growth.
“Maharishi offers consciousness-based education with the aim of getting people into quality jobs rather than low-level, working poor jobs,” said Taddy.
The recent donation of a five-star, A-grade, 42,000-square metre building by Anglo American (pictured below) will allow the institute to add another 3 500 individuals to its student body starting in January 2024.
“The donation of Anglo’s old head office in Main Street in the city centre is a game-changer,” says Taddy (pictured above). “Eventually we hope to develop this area of downtown into an inner-city campus that includes outdoor recreation and sports facilities for the students.”
To date the institute – which has expanded to include a pre-school, a high school, and the tertiary institution – has placed more than 19 000 students in professional roles, supporting an estimated 150 000 people.
To date the institute – which has expanded to include a pre-school, a high school, 12 industry professional academies and a private college – has placed 20, 915 students in professional roles, supporting an estimated 150 000 people.
“Our goal is to develop 100 000 leaders,” said Taddy. “South Africa desperately needs young leaders in politics, economics and civil society across all areas of the economy. We need to train young people who’ve got vision, resilience and integrity, and who have the potential to become real servant leaders.”