Meet Dr Taddy Blecher - Our Next Heavy Chef Speaker
Dr Taddy Blecher is CEO of the Maharishi Institute, CEO of the Community and Individual Development Association, the Executive Chairman of Invincible Outsourcing; and Chairman of the SA National Government task team on Entrepreneurship, Education and Job Creation.
Dr Blecher spearheaded the introduction of free tertiary education in South Africa and has been at the forefront of the move towards building a more educated and empowered African society. Fondly referred to as a real-life “Harry Potter,” Dr Blecher has dedicated his life and all his resources to educating the disadvantaged. As such, he has been the recipient of a number of international awards including the World Economic Forum’s “Global Leader of Tomorrow” award in 2002 and the “Young Global Leader of the World,” award in 2005.
To sum up Dr Blecher’s experience and accomplishments would be a mammoth task. In short, he has made an indelible mark on the landscape of African education. It is an honour to be hosting him as our next Heavy Chef speaker. In this brief interview, we got to know him better.
Research tells us that you forewent a R1.3 million salary in the private sector and a number of international job opportunities in order to join a NPO based on education. That’s an extraordinary story. The big question is, why? Why did you decide to alter the course of your life so drastically?
The decision to change the course of my life came about because I realised that too many good people were leaving South Africa at the time, and that some people needed to stay behind to try and make a difference in the lives of those people who hadn’t been afforded the opportunities that I had. I was young, I had no dependents at the time, so I could live on a significantly small income and so I decided to give it a try and see where my skills and training could be put to good use. Of course at the time, I had no idea where it would lead.
Can you tell us more about Transcendental Meditation and how it has helped you to live a successful life?
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a systematic and scientifically verified means of developing one’s total potential. Through this simple, natural, and effortless procedure, one enlivens the most creative, powerful, and blissful level of your own awareness; pure consciousness. The result is greater intelligence, greater creativity, greater learning ability, less stress, better health, better relationships.
Before I started meditating, I was not a happy person. Life was tough, I battled to believe in myself and I did what was expected of me and nothing else. I didn’t know how to dream about a better tomorrow. Since I discovered TM and started practicing it regularly, I have become a much more confident, balanced and happy person. I have learnt to deal with experiences in my past and move forward positively. I now have a lot of hope for tomorrow and what can be achieved.
You’ve been at the helm of a major shift in South Africa’s educational development. What kind of change have you witnessed since the inception of the first free educational institution that you established?
After working in the townships for four years, my colleagues and I realised that there was nowhere for young people to study further if they could not afford to go to a regular university. That was the key driver behind the establishment of the ‘free’ tertiary education movement, back in 1999. It's amazing to watch the 'fees must fall' movement 17 years later. Through the various institutions that we have helped to establish, we have been able to offer further education to over 15,250 young people, who are today earning in excess of R900 million in combined annual salaries, with estimated lifetime earnings of over R23 billion. Education is the key to turning this nation around, so it has been amazing giving hope to young people who have completed formal studies, as well as those who have been through shorter interventions or been encouraged to start their own businesses.
What does it mean to be named the Global Leader of Tomorrow?
At the time it was such an honour to be awarded that title as it opened up so many doors of opportunity. People who would never have known about the work that was being done in South Africa got to hear about it and were able then and still today to partner with us in what we are working to achieve.
When you look at Africa’s educational landscape, what are some of the things you envision for the future of the industry?
Technology is such a wonderful enabler and I would love to see much more use being made of the technology that already exists to enable education in so many amazing ways. Particularly technology that personalises the education experience for every individual student. Mass personalisation of education we would call it. It would be fantastic to be able to offer free tertiary education to far more young people from South Africa and across the continent, made possible by advances in technology.
This would help us to move away from the divisions that our history has created and work together to make South Africa great. I also long to see the missing element of the individuals themselves being included - the human being, the greatest asset that exists on earth if fully developed. Bringing holistic development of the full potential of every student, starting right from their consciousness. This coupling of 'human' technology and information technology that unlocks the full potential of every individual on a personalised basis will bring unstoppable and unimaginable positive change. This is the journey we are on.
What for you are the essential qualities of a good educator?
A passion for young people and the change that holistic education can bring to them; an understanding of the greatness of every student in actuality; a desire to develop more than 5% of the student, which is the average human development index today, and to waken every student to their infinite potential and the opportunity they have to live a life of true greatness; to have peak experiences; a commitment to see students accomplish far more than they could ever have imagined.
What for you are the essential qualities of a good student?
Open-mindedness. A firm stand that they will never accept mediocrity for their lives. A questioning mind, along with a heart that is open to love and to be bold in search of beauty in all things and to find greatness. A commitment to following their personal passions in a constructive way that will set them on a path to self mastery. A huge willingness to learn to be better than themselves; a commitment to walking the journey consciously to finish what they start, irrespective of the hurdles.
Dr Taddy Blecher will headline the next Heavy Chef event on 30 March 2016
, and will present on how digital is changing education in Africa.