Fourteen Chevening Gurukul Fellows arrived at King’s College London to begin an intensive twelve-week leadership course at the India Institute of the iconic central London university.

The Chevening Gurukul Fellowship programme is designed to address issues faced by leaders in all fields, by analysing changing ideas and practices of leadership, and exploring implications of globalisation for Indian leaders.

The fellowship, run annually, is aimed at young high-flyers and mid-career professionals from diverse backgrounds with a strong and demonstrable leadership potential.

At a reception held to welcome the 2015 fellows to King’s, Director of the King’s School of Global Affairs, Professor Nick Clifford, delivered a warm speech in which he emphasised the importance of the programme to King’s and UK-India relations:

‘I’m delighted by the calibre and the range of the fellows. There is no better example of our shared missions than bringing you together under this leadership programme where practice is shared, where impact and making a difference really matters, and where connections are made between the academy and the wider world.’

Benita Ho, Senior Fellowships Officer, at the Chevening Secretariat added:

‘One of Chevening’s fundamental aims is to bring together talented leaders from different walks of life to learn from renowned academics and professionals – and from each other – in world-class UK universities. The Chevening Gurukul Fellowship at King’s College London does just that. What happens over the short time that they are here has the potential to catalyse long-lasting positive change to their communities and professions.’

Small change, large change

Ajay, a Gurukul Fellow from Bangalore, spoke of his hopes for the programme, and for the future of India. He works for a non-profit organisation that provides meals to 1.5 million children across 11,000 primary schools daily.

‘The meal acts as an incentive for parents to send their children to school. Once the child is in school – now with a belly full of good food – the child can concentrate and perform better. [Through this programme], we can see how education can unlock a whole generation from the cycle of poverty’.

Whilst the scale of this project may seem vast, India’s school age population stands at about 150 million. This means that, in the 15 years since it was founded, the organisation has grown dramatically yet only touches 1% of those it could potentially benefit. Ajay’s wish is to scale it up across more than the 11 states it current operates in, in order to feed five million children daily by 2020.

Ajay explained that the Indian government supported the programme, contributing up to 60% of the programme’s costs. Ensuring that young people are in school means that, through education, they are more likely to become useful contributors to the rapidly-growing superpower’s economy, rather than create the social unrest that is often a consequence of a lack of education and poverty.

Speaking of why he was enthusiastic about being a Chevening Gurukul Fellow, Ajay spoke about how he hopes to benefit from undertaking this short course at King’s:

‘I would like to see good practice in public-private partnerships, specifically from the UK, and learn how they operate in practice here. I also would like to see if I can learn how to improve the efficiency of the programme, to better administer the programme.’

It costs six pence to feed a child per day. Ajay pointed out that if he could use the knowledge he gains at King’s to find a way to reduce that cost by just half a penny per child, multiplied by 1.5 million children every day, the savings – and hence the ability to bring more schools and children under the programme – would be immense.

‘The long-term desire is to close down the programme by 2030, as it will no longer be needed if it is successful!’

Find out more about Ajay, and meet all fourteen 2015 Chevening Gurukul Fellows here.


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