Taddy Blecher Consciousness raising

After 19 years educating the disadvantaged, Taddy Blecher is still passionate about his students. "Every student is a genius waiting to happen," he says.

Blecher first developed a public profile in 2000 when he cofounded Cida City Campus in Johannesburg - a free education model offering a four-year business administration degree. He left Cida in 2007 to start another free educational body, the Maharishi Institute, which keeps its costs low by getting students to contribute to its running.

The institute this week launched the Impact Sourcing Academy in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and Aegis Outsourcing SA. It offers young people from disadvantaged communities access to free education and the opportunity to work four hours a day in a customised call centre on the campus in inner-city Johannesburg.

The call centre runs industry-standard training programmes and campaigns tailor-made to clients' requirements. With space to train 1000-1500 students, it can create a pipeline of skilled call centre operators to supply the industry. Students continue their studies while working at the call centre.

Blecher's promotion of transcendental meditation upset some of Cida's donors. But he remains devoted to giving students what he calls a "consciousness-based education". They start each day with yoga and transcendental meditation. Blecher says as a result students' IQs rise by 9-14 points and their creativity and memories improve over the four-year programme.

For the past two years, Blecher has chaired government's task team on enabling entrepreneurship for the Human Resource Development Council, under deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe. The team is looking at ways to unlock entrepreneurship in schools, further education & training colleges, universities, and small & medium enterprises.

"The problem is there are hundreds of good initiatives to help entrepreneurs and small businesses but they are not integrated," says Blecher. The task team wants to pull all these programmes together to make a greater impact on employment creation.

Blecher married two years ago and says he has devoted his life to his students. "Nothing in the world brings me more joy than the thousands of graduates out there," he says. Graduates who have passed through his institutions earn a combined salary of around R300m a year, he estimates.