"As young people, we have potential. We know we can achieve our life’s purpose when given the right support and environment to thrive.”
These are the words of 24-year-old Atlegang Modise, pursuing a Bachelor's in Business Administration degree at Maharishi Invincibility Institute (MII) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
South Africa has a growing youth population bursting with promise — young people between the ages of 15-34 make up 36% of the entire population. For students like Atlegang, pursuing higher education can provide cushioning in an already precarious labor market, where nearly half of all young people are unemployed.
We know that enrolling into and graduating college can change a young person’s life. Research indicates that learners who have attained a four-year university degree have a 96% employment rate, compared with 29% for those whose highest level of education is secondary school. Education continuity is pushed to the back burner by potential students experiencing poverty, inequity, and other life circumstances, such as mental health challenges, caregiving responsibilities and a lack of role models which can affect their educational success.
Imaginable Futures is proud to invest in Maharishi Invincibility Institute (MII), which supports the dreams of South Africa’s promising talent from underserved communities by addressing barriers that have traditionally excluded them from pursuing higher education and attaining fulfilling careers.
Our students are much more than just their intellect— they have feelings and life experiences that are integral to who they are.
Beyond Traditional Approaches: Learner-Centered Education
Traditionally, African education systems have borrowed heavily from colonial learning methods with less emphasis on the varying needs of learners, excluding many talented young people. Founded in 2007, MII is an accredited non-profit South African university that integrates consciousness-based education and invaluable career skills to develop the full potential of every student. They have four campuses based in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Mpumalanga that cater to students from families with few economic resources.
A majority of MII students come in with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and various mental health challenges, such as depression. MII offers programs that incorporate transcendental meditation retreats and provides catch-up classes for learners who require extra attention. In addition, students also receive a suite of support services such as an Early Childhood Development (ECD) center that provides child care services to student parents.
“Our students are much more than just their intellect— they have feelings and life experiences that are integral to who they are,” said Taddy Blecher, CEO of MII. “To realize their life’s potential, all of these different aspects must be catered to in totality.”
Providing Transformative and Inclusive Learning Pathways
MII offers quality and affordable education programs – often four times less costly than other South African institutions. Students receive scholarships through their “learn and earn'' model, which allows them to do paid work in various campus departments while enrolled in classes.
Their curriculum bridges the gap between what the education sector provides to learners and what the economy needs from workers. Demonstrating that intelligence is evenly distributed but opportunity is not, they target students who haven’t attained the grade required to join university and equips them for well-paying jobs in banking, technology and business management sectors. Graduates of Maharishi, 70% of whom are young women like Atlegang, earn much higher salaries than their peers and nearly 95% secure employment after leaving the program.
MII recognizes mentorship and role modeling as powerful tools to inspire young people from vulnerable backgrounds. Their pay it forward program encourages graduate students to sponsor learners like them who would benefit from MII’s support. During holidays and weekends, they return to their former high schools to teach short courses in financial literacy, math, computer skills, and healthy living. Atlegang and her friends fundraised for food and health supplies during the pandemic. Others formed homework clubs that helped local school children tackle their classwork when they were out of school.
Supporting the Hopes and Dreams of South Africa’s Youth
Maharishi hopes to expand and replicate its model in other African countries through technology platforms in the coming years. “Our high-touch transformational human learning model is people-centered. We hope to strengthen its adoption using technology to give more African learners access to what we offer,” Blecher said.
Imaginable Futures hopes that our collaboration with MII will galvanize leaders in Africa’s education ecosystem to invest in learner-centric models as a powerful tool for supporting youth to thrive in the 21st century.
Once she completes her studies, Atlegang is hopeful about the future. Her dream is to combine her love for business and sustainable design, starting her own company to create job opportunities for youth. “[Young people] need someone to believe in them and I’m determined to make a difference where I can,” she said.
Maharishi is reimagining—and creating— more equitable futures for South African learners and we are excited to partner with them as they undertake this profoundly important work.