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Global Empowerment: Breaking Barriers with Esther O'Callaghan OBE and Dr. Tahirih Danesh

Dr. Tahirih Danesh, PhD Law, CEO of Africa College Foundation (MII U.K.) and Esther O'Callaghan OBE, Founder of hundo addresses global youth unemployment challenges and offers solutions on how we can support young people.

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Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Hi, I'm Esther O'Callaghan, the founder of hundo.xyz I'm delighted to be joined by a colleague and friend, Dr. Tahirih Danesh, and we're going to be talking all about mentoring. Uh, skills, uh, the widening gap between education and employability skills and learning, um, and how, um, how we're working together to tackle that.
Um, so I'm going to hand it over to you to do a quick intro, um, about who you are and what you 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: do. Thanks, Esther. Um, my name is Tahirih as you mentioned I am the CEO of Africa College Foundation here in the United Kingdom. Um, I'm also an associate economic rights advocate, so I'm super excited about anything that. Uses any means to promote education, entrepreneurship, and employment, particularly for the youth of Africa, who are the largest population of youth on earth. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Thank you. So we're going to jump right in, um, with some questions. I actually wanted to, um, pick up on exactly what you just said. In areas like South Africa, um, how has technology changed the narrative, um, about geographic barriers? Um, access to career opportunities for students, um, and how is that challenging some of the stereotypes and, and the career limitations?  Well, 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: um, placing myself back, as you know, since the end of Apartheid, access to education has been a huge, huge barrier to creating socio economic inequality, uh, or rather equality getting rid of socio economic inequality.
And so, um, the infrastructure in the country is a lot of ideas. So things like transportation, communication, you know, having data is like adding gold. It's very difficult. So, um, technological advance and technological increase are enabling the younger generation to actually be able to access these very basic rights without which you can't really live.
I mean, if you don't have education, how can you, you know, access your Um, uh, income, how can you, you know, advance in society, how can you contribute to your welfare, the welfare of your family and the community? So, so technology is really playing a huge role in, uh, changing those means dynamics. It's, you know, 30 years ago, we couldn't even dream of, are becoming possible. We need to do a lot more. It's not ideal. But, um, what we see in, in South Africa in particular is, is really important. And my hope is that we'll be able to, um, you know, have greater impact with things like UNRWA. I think it's an incredible platform through which, you know, meaningful change would happen but in underdeveloped countries.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Thank you. And I think the important thing from our side is, is the ability to work in partnership. with education providers and I think recognising that it's impossible in many ways for educators to also be careers advisors and you know and all of those things It's like we need to kind of work and as part of an ecosystem and together I think that's one of the reasons why we're so happy to be and partnering up and with you over the course of the next year and touching on that then in terms of from your perspective, and obviously with the students that you serve, how does access to things like information, not just education, but you know, inspiration, and independent mentors, and how do you see, do you perceive that as important?
How do you think about that? Particularly looking at an increasingly globalised workforce. Um, and, and how, yeah, and how everybody's kind of starting to interoperate together. Be really useful to hear your perspective on that. Well, 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: two points on what you said about mentoring and inspiration are incredibly important in our ecosystem. Um, because our education system is, you know, something unique, you know, consciousness based education takes a technical education that any other university offers to train the younger generation, but then adds to it an element of regeneration from within the individual. So, we're not really interested in the traditional approach to education, which is to bring someone and just, you know, fill them up with information and say, now go on nurturing that.
When we actually do consciousness based education, which relies on meditation, relies on the inner workings of an individual as their greatest capital. We are very much focused on how do we create that inspiration, how do we bring about that unity and diversity of talents that an economy needs, a sustainable economy needs. And so for us, it's very important to, to, to look at that and see how do we connect that to the demands that are in the market. And we seem to have cracked that, that, that bold glass ceiling on, on employment because South Africa, as you know, is one of the countries with highest rates of youth unemployment in the world.
But, um, consistently our organisation, the Maharishi Invincibility Institute, which is a very unique, um, secondary, uh, education institution, um, and for secondary, um, consistently we have maintained an above average of at least 94%. This last December we were actually at 98%. Once our, our, our, um, students graduate, we're warrantied almost employment.
And so creating, um, that relationship through mentors is very important. In fact, our organisation is in many ways, although it's a massive organisation and you have more than 200 people working there, you know, faculty, you know, deans, everything, we're still being mentored by a key figure, our founder, Dr.
Taddy Bletcher, who is one of the 21 icons to watch in Ethic World. He's an incredible person in terms of his approach to education and that relationship that all of us have with Ted is actually creating that context within which mentorship works and of course, as we know here in the United Kingdom, you know, years ago, we had a wonderful, uh, experiment done by one of our, um, top, um, education professors here.
Um, the entire thing is called a hole in the wall. The hole in the wall theory, of course, showed that yes, you need technology, but do you need that element of encouragement. You need that figure who comes and empowers you to dig deeper within you, to, to find solutions to the problems that you're facing.
And in contexts like South Africa, where we are really rebuilding the world in a whole new way, um, it's very important to have that element of encouragement because you face so many I would never say problems, but new paths to solutions that sometimes it could become ourselves. You need that energy to keep going.
And so I love the fact that, you know, your ecosystem, you know, doesn't only bring technology, but brings that element of mentoring and courage to the students and the younger population. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: It was actually really important for us because we never saw tech as a replacement. Um, to human interaction. Um, and I think that's one of the, um, one of the reasons that we looked at developing the career co pilot. It was not just, um, for students, it was also to give teachers, parents, um, and, and career coaches and advisors, um, the ability to stay out in front of what is, what is just a rapidly changing, um, workforce, you know, the skills that you need, um, the jobs that are available. Um, you know, in my lifetime, you know, so far it's probably the same for you.
I haven't seen this level of disruption, um, and asking educators to keep pace with that is, I think, I think, asking too much. And so I guess for me, that's why, um, that's why the career co pilot for us became so important. Um, and to be able to empower, um, not just students, um, but teachers as well. Um, can you share, um, some of the stories, um, of individuals from, um, places, yeah, obviously predominantly working in South Africa, um, and how you, um, yeah, some of the case studies would be great to hear, and then also how you see, um, leveraging, um, what hundo provides in terms of being able to, um, yeah, being able to boost that experience for, for, yeah, hopefully as many young people as we possibly can together. Well, 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: um You know, our entire system is based on making education accessible and enjoyable for the most marginalised youths. And Al Shabaab has a central role to play in socio economic welfare of the entire globe because it is in your list. Currency Mutual Independence Day by 2014. We're expecting This number to increase by even 40 percent more so, you know, the median age is 19 years of age, which means for the foreseeable future, 60 percent or so, um, the workforce that definitely changed to join the global economy on the massive, and South Africa, particularly Johannesburg, where our headquarters are, has always played a very important role.
You know, Johannesburg is a New York in terms of economic impact of Africa. And so what we see happen in this particular space is phenomenal. We have more than 24,000 graduates there who, each one of them, if you look at their story, spaces like that, they, they shouldn't, maybe some of them didn't even be alive because of the circumstances that they faced.
The way we have set up, uh, the, the system is that they come in, we're F3, but fully almost funded. We're 80 percent sustainable. We're trying to become 100 percent sustainable perpetually. But if we offer free education to students, and, and as I mentioned earlier, of course we work with, with their whole well being.
So through meditation, through yoga, through a new diet, through a whole Ratham program that you have counseling, anything. Each of them coming to the system, and within three years on average, they go from extreme poverty to middle class. And with the rate of employment that of course we have, you are now seeing our graduates in some of the most important institutions. around the world that have a presence in South Africa. So our hope is that this incredible recourse we have, that everyone is after because of the quality of graduate study. That then, soon enough, the entire globe would have access that we are training and empowering. to more fully real in, in their own selves and the community around them.
Um, so we're, we're very hopeful and I could go on and get into 24,000 is, is a quite a, quite a, you know, case study, but we have, you know, graduate after graduate, story after story of, of lives that have changed forever. And of course, with then generations are now enjoying a different life. Because of access to education and because of access to entrepreneurship and meaning for employment, so I think you're going to need, um, a seismic shift in the way not only how our students access employment and entrepreneurship, but in the way businesses around the world are able to access the resource that we're creating.
And along with that, of course, the quality of education, as you mentioned, we're part of the Marshall Hobbs Educators. And that's a huge deal in a country that is, that is experiencing brain drain. If we're able to maintain our students, if they are able to study and work, um, in South Africa and, and, you know, empower the world, that's going to make a huge difference globally, you know, because these numbers make all sorts of impacts on GDP in some countries and then GDP plays a huge role in having.
You know, uh, obtain our, um, Sustainable Development Goals. So I think, I think what you're doing really in, in, in probably five, six years time will be shocked pleasantly with the impact that, that you're imparting and, and what you're pioneering today. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Uh, thank you. I think it's, I think what you touched on there, um, you know, this is a sort of a final thought for me is around exactly that. Um, it's no use in, my view, um, having all these, you know, bright minds, um, who then have to leave their homes. Um, you know, in, some cases leave their countries, um, simply because of a lack of access, um, to jobs that are, that are actually available. You know, I've, I've seen that over and over again, um, where there can be an equivalent number of jobs in a region, um, as there are young people seeking work, but there's a complete mismatch in terms of the skills and the access and the basic, the visibility, um, to employers.
So, um, so yeah, no, it's been, um. Really, really exciting to get to, um, to learn more, um, about the institute that we're going to be working with together. And, um, thank you so much for, uh, being with us today.  Thank you very 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: much. We, everyone at Maharishi Invincibility Institute and our new, um, campus on the continents, and very first education capital, education talent that we are starting in Johannesburg Central Business District, um, which is going to be the mecca of education, I think, for the entire globe. Everyone's excited working with you guys that are looking forward to having these incredible opportunities and we can't wait to welcome everybody there. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: So very excited to be having hundo's Career CoPilot going live in South Africa in partnership with you. So thanks ever so much for your time.

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: See you in South Africa.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Very soon.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Hi, I'm Esther O'Callaghan, the founder of hundo.xyz I'm delighted to be joined by a colleague and friend, Dr. Tahirih Danesh, and we're going to be talking all about mentoring. Uh, skills, uh, the widening gap between education and employability skills and learning, um, and how, um, how we're working together to tackle that.
Um, so I'm going to hand it over to you to do a quick intro, um, about who you are and what you 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: do. Thanks, Esther. Um, my name is Tahirih as you mentioned I am the CEO of Africa College Foundation here in the United Kingdom. Um, I'm also an associate economic rights advocate, so I'm super excited about anything that. Uses any means to promote education, entrepreneurship, and employment, particularly for the youth of Africa, who are the largest population of youth on earth. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Thank you. So we're going to jump right in, um, with some questions. I actually wanted to, um, pick up on exactly what you just said. In areas like South Africa, um, how has technology changed the narrative, um, about geographic barriers? Um, access to career opportunities for students, um, and how is that challenging some of the stereotypes and, and the career limitations?  Well, 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: um, placing myself back, as you know, since the end of Apartheid, access to education has been a huge, huge barrier to creating socio economic inequality, uh, or rather equality getting rid of socio economic inequality.
And so, um, the infrastructure in the country is a lot of ideas. So things like transportation, communication, you know, having data is like adding gold. It's very difficult. So, um, technological advance and technological increase are enabling the younger generation to actually be able to access these very basic rights without which you can't really live.
I mean, if you don't have education, how can you, you know, access your Um, uh, income, how can you, you know, advance in society, how can you contribute to your welfare, the welfare of your family and the community? So, so technology is really playing a huge role in, uh, changing those means dynamics. It's, you know, 30 years ago, we couldn't even dream of, are becoming possible. We need to do a lot more. It's not ideal. But, um, what we see in, in South Africa in particular is, is really important. And my hope is that we'll be able to, um, you know, have greater impact with things like UNRWA. I think it's an incredible platform through which, you know, meaningful change would happen but in underdeveloped countries.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Thank you. And I think the important thing from our side is, is the ability to work in partnership. with education providers and I think recognising that it's impossible in many ways for educators to also be careers advisors and you know and all of those things It's like we need to kind of work and as part of an ecosystem and together I think that's one of the reasons why we're so happy to be and partnering up and with you over the course of the next year and touching on that then in terms of from your perspective, and obviously with the students that you serve, how does access to things like information, not just education, but you know, inspiration, and independent mentors, and how do you see, do you perceive that as important?
How do you think about that? Particularly looking at an increasingly globalised workforce. Um, and, and how, yeah, and how everybody's kind of starting to interoperate together. Be really useful to hear your perspective on that. Well, 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: two points on what you said about mentoring and inspiration are incredibly important in our ecosystem. Um, because our education system is, you know, something unique, you know, consciousness based education takes a technical education that any other university offers to train the younger generation, but then adds to it an element of regeneration from within the individual. So, we're not really interested in the traditional approach to education, which is to bring someone and just, you know, fill them up with information and say, now go on nurturing that.
When we actually do consciousness based education, which relies on meditation, relies on the inner workings of an individual as their greatest capital. We are very much focused on how do we create that inspiration, how do we bring about that unity and diversity of talents that an economy needs, a sustainable economy needs. And so for us, it's very important to, to, to look at that and see how do we connect that to the demands that are in the market. And we seem to have cracked that, that, that bold glass ceiling on, on employment because South Africa, as you know, is one of the countries with highest rates of youth unemployment in the world.
But, um, consistently our organisation, the Maharishi Invincibility Institute, which is a very unique, um, secondary, uh, education institution, um, and for secondary, um, consistently we have maintained an above average of at least 94%. This last December we were actually at 98%. Once our, our, our, um, students graduate, we're warrantied almost employment.
And so creating, um, that relationship through mentors is very important. In fact, our organisation is in many ways, although it's a massive organisation and you have more than 200 people working there, you know, faculty, you know, deans, everything, we're still being mentored by a key figure, our founder, Dr.
Taddy Bletcher, who is one of the 21 icons to watch in Ethic World. He's an incredible person in terms of his approach to education and that relationship that all of us have with Ted is actually creating that context within which mentorship works and of course, as we know here in the United Kingdom, you know, years ago, we had a wonderful, uh, experiment done by one of our, um, top, um, education professors here.
Um, the entire thing is called a hole in the wall. The hole in the wall theory, of course, showed that yes, you need technology, but do you need that element of encouragement. You need that figure who comes and empowers you to dig deeper within you, to, to find solutions to the problems that you're facing.
And in contexts like South Africa, where we are really rebuilding the world in a whole new way, um, it's very important to have that element of encouragement because you face so many I would never say problems, but new paths to solutions that sometimes it could become ourselves. You need that energy to keep going.
And so I love the fact that, you know, your ecosystem, you know, doesn't only bring technology, but brings that element of mentoring and courage to the students and the younger population. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: It was actually really important for us because we never saw tech as a replacement. Um, to human interaction. Um, and I think that's one of the, um, one of the reasons that we looked at developing the career co pilot. It was not just, um, for students, it was also to give teachers, parents, um, and, and career coaches and advisors, um, the ability to stay out in front of what is, what is just a rapidly changing, um, workforce, you know, the skills that you need, um, the jobs that are available. Um, you know, in my lifetime, you know, so far it's probably the same for you.
I haven't seen this level of disruption, um, and asking educators to keep pace with that is, I think, I think, asking too much. And so I guess for me, that's why, um, that's why the career co pilot for us became so important. Um, and to be able to empower, um, not just students, um, but teachers as well. Um, can you share, um, some of the stories, um, of individuals from, um, places, yeah, obviously predominantly working in South Africa, um, and how you, um, yeah, some of the case studies would be great to hear, and then also how you see, um, leveraging, um, what hundo provides in terms of being able to, um, yeah, being able to boost that experience for, for, yeah, hopefully as many young people as we possibly can together. Well, 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: um You know, our entire system is based on making education accessible and enjoyable for the most marginalised youths. And Al Shabaab has a central role to play in socio economic welfare of the entire globe because it is in your list. Currency Mutual Independence Day by 2014. We're expecting This number to increase by even 40 percent more so, you know, the median age is 19 years of age, which means for the foreseeable future, 60 percent or so, um, the workforce that definitely changed to join the global economy on the massive, and South Africa, particularly Johannesburg, where our headquarters are, has always played a very important role.
You know, Johannesburg is a New York in terms of economic impact of Africa. And so what we see happen in this particular space is phenomenal. We have more than 24,000 graduates there who, each one of them, if you look at their story, spaces like that, they, they shouldn't, maybe some of them didn't even be alive because of the circumstances that they faced.
The way we have set up, uh, the, the system is that they come in, we're F3, but fully almost funded. We're 80 percent sustainable. We're trying to become 100 percent sustainable perpetually. But if we offer free education to students, and, and as I mentioned earlier, of course we work with, with their whole well being.
So through meditation, through yoga, through a new diet, through a whole Ratham program that you have counseling, anything. Each of them coming to the system, and within three years on average, they go from extreme poverty to middle class. And with the rate of employment that of course we have, you are now seeing our graduates in some of the most important institutions. around the world that have a presence in South Africa. So our hope is that this incredible recourse we have, that everyone is after because of the quality of graduate study. That then, soon enough, the entire globe would have access that we are training and empowering. to more fully real in, in their own selves and the community around them.
Um, so we're, we're very hopeful and I could go on and get into 24,000 is, is a quite a, quite a, you know, case study, but we have, you know, graduate after graduate, story after story of, of lives that have changed forever. And of course, with then generations are now enjoying a different life. Because of access to education and because of access to entrepreneurship and meaning for employment, so I think you're going to need, um, a seismic shift in the way not only how our students access employment and entrepreneurship, but in the way businesses around the world are able to access the resource that we're creating.
And along with that, of course, the quality of education, as you mentioned, we're part of the Marshall Hobbs Educators. And that's a huge deal in a country that is, that is experiencing brain drain. If we're able to maintain our students, if they are able to study and work, um, in South Africa and, and, you know, empower the world, that's going to make a huge difference globally, you know, because these numbers make all sorts of impacts on GDP in some countries and then GDP plays a huge role in having.
You know, uh, obtain our, um, Sustainable Development Goals. So I think, I think what you're doing really in, in, in probably five, six years time will be shocked pleasantly with the impact that, that you're imparting and, and what you're pioneering today. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Uh, thank you. I think it's, I think what you touched on there, um, you know, this is a sort of a final thought for me is around exactly that. Um, it's no use in, my view, um, having all these, you know, bright minds, um, who then have to leave their homes. Um, you know, in, some cases leave their countries, um, simply because of a lack of access, um, to jobs that are, that are actually available. You know, I've, I've seen that over and over again, um, where there can be an equivalent number of jobs in a region, um, as there are young people seeking work, but there's a complete mismatch in terms of the skills and the access and the basic, the visibility, um, to employers.
So, um, so yeah, no, it's been, um. Really, really exciting to get to, um, to learn more, um, about the institute that we're going to be working with together. And, um, thank you so much for, uh, being with us today.  Thank you very 

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: much. We, everyone at Maharishi Invincibility Institute and our new, um, campus on the continents, and very first education capital, education talent that we are starting in Johannesburg Central Business District, um, which is going to be the mecca of education, I think, for the entire globe. Everyone's excited working with you guys that are looking forward to having these incredible opportunities and we can't wait to welcome everybody there. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: So very excited to be having hundo's Career CoPilot going live in South Africa in partnership with you. So thanks ever so much for your time.

Dr. Tahirih Danesh: See you in South Africa.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Very soon.

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