Gandhi Fellowship 2015-17: 5 Schools, 5 Headmasters, 500 Students and YOU

1. What is the Fellowship?

The Fellowship is an intensive 2-year residential program that helps talented young people develop the leadership skills necessary to cause disproportionate positive change in society.

The Fellowship challenges these young people to support primary school headmasters to transform their schools. In the process, Fellows discover what they want to do with their own lives and how to go about converting their ideas into reality.

2. What exactly happens during the Fellowship?

During the 2 years of the Fellowship, the fellows will be assigned 5 schools each. The fellows have to bring about a significant transformation in these schools. The 2 years are divided into four semesters. The program starts with an induction and immersion into the school and village context.

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And with each semester, the fellows get deeper into the challenges of the school and resolve them successfully. These 2 years have been interspersed with daily peer reviews, expert reviews, personal reflection workshops, field visits to social organizations, vipassana meditation retreats, reflective reading etc., which help the fellows evolve and develop critical leadership skills.

3. What do fellows exactly do in schools?

Their major role is to strategically help the HMs build their capacity as a leader, overcome challenges and improve the quality of learning. They support the HM in everything relating to the school development plan – organizing an ideal morning assembly, increasing student enrollment, improving the mid-day meal system, organizing School Monitoring Committee (SMC), mobilizing community participation and collaboration with their fellow teachers.

4. How will the fellows benefit from the Fellowship program?

By working on a social change problem, the fellows understand change leadership at the generic level, a system design thinking process that they can apply to any social problem they want to solve. The Fellowship is designed to help the fellows develop the following six competencies – Self Awareness, Collaborative Work, Excellence, Influence without Authority, Articulation of Values and Articulation of Private Dream.

5. What do Fellows do after two years?

During the two years, Fellows are supported to figure out their private dream and are equipped with the skills to pursue it after the 2 years. There is a placement cell in the Fellowship which helps in finding jobs if necessary (aligned to their Private Dreams), but fellows are expected to be independent and find their own way in pursuing their dream – which is the very idea of the Fellowship.

6. What kind of support will the fellows get during the 2-year period?

Financial: The fellows will receive a stipend of Rs. 14, 000 per month throughout their 2-years and they must cover their basic living costs with their stipend.

The fellows are given a mobile allowance of Rs 600 every month, shared motor bikes and computers, cost of water and electricity charges, rent and services of the cook are also borne by the organization.

Training: The fellows also receive training in understanding and solving problems through a system design thinking process. The training support is provided through guidance from Program Leader, induction/reflection workshops, periodic reviews and feedback for improvement.

7. Why was this Fellowship program created?

India today faces a major crunch of leaders in every domain. The top minds of the top colleges in our country are busy running after personal success rather than even thinking about the society. The Fellowship feels the need to guide talented youth to actively engage with solving the myriad problems plaguing the country today.

So, the Fellowship was created with the intent to get the best students in the country to run through a two year curriculum which we believe will help them become the next generation of nation builders.

8. When was the Fellowship started and how many have participated in it so far?

The Fellowship started in 2008 with 11 fellows in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. In 2009, the Fellowship program expanded to Ahmedabad with a batch of 23 fellows and in 2010 it further expanded to Mumbai with the third batch of 36 fellows.

The fourth batch has a strength of 123 fellows and in 2012, 163 students have joined the Fellowship. It has been steadily growing in popularity and graduates from the top colleges in the country have participated in this.

9. Who is behind this Fellowship program?

The Fellowship is an initiative of Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF), a not-for-profit organization that designs and runs innovative leadership development programmes.

KEF is led by a professional and experienced management team and given strategic direction by an eminent management board, whose members are: Mr Ajay G. Piramal – Chairman of Piramal Healthcare, Mr Narayanan Vaghul – Chairman of ICICI Bank, Mr Ujwal Thakar – ex-CEO of, Mr Chittaranjan Kaul – an Education Advisor and previously the Principal of Sahyadri School in Pune (a unit of Krishnamurti Foundation) and Mr Aditya Natraj – Founder Director of KEF and previously a corporate finance consultant with KPMG.

The Fellowship is funded by Piramal Foundation, UNICEF and Michael and Susan Dell foundation. To honor the invaluable contribution made by Mr. Ajay Piramal the Fellowship is called Piramal Fellowship in Rajasthan.


CoCoon is a specialist in talent development and leadership building, and developed the Fellowship’s 24-month process. In addition the Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation at IIM-A has been closely involved in developing KEF’s school leadership training for Headmasters.

10. What are the core principles of the Fellowship?

The Fellowship takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi.

Two core principles which are at the foundation of the Fellowship are – Firstly, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Whereby Fellows are encouraged to cause any external change by changing themselves first.

And secondly, He also believed in the process of action and reflection, and used reflection as a major tool for personal and then societal change. Similarly reflection is an integral part of the two year journey of the Fellowship. Fellows are supported and encouraged to reflect everyday and they go through the continual cycle of action and reflection as a part of everyday life in the Fellowship.

11. Why is the Fellowship Programme run for two years and not one or three years?

The Fellowship is not designed for one year because we believe that developing effective leadership skills takes time and cannot be compressed in a twelve month schedule. The Fellowship believes that in the two year journey, a fellow has to gain 6 basic competencies which requires a dedicated period of time.

12. Do Fellows get holidays?

Yes. Holidays for the entire Fellowship batch are scheduled to fit in with the school calendar. There is a break of approximately 1 week scheduled to coincide with Diwali and another 1 week break during the school summer holidays.

Because almost all activities during the 2-year program are group activities, Fellows are discouraged from taking breaks apart from those which are scheduled for the group as a whole.

13. Can anyone leave the Fellowship after one year or be asked to leave mid-way?

There is no bond and one has the freedom to leave. However, Fellowship is a commitment and is meant for those who are serious about creating change. We want serious people who see value in the two years and not those who will drop out prematurely due to family pressures, marriage plans, and fancy pay package of their friends or a university education.

Sometimes the organization also asks some fellows to leave who fail to show progress and meet up to the expectation of the Fellowship even after a warning and certain time frame to bounce back and show progress has been given to them. The Fellowship has its own assessment system and can ask people to leave who fail to show the rigour and excellence required to cause any social impact.

Full details are HERE.

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