31st Yudhvir Memorial Award

Mrs Vandita Rao & Mr E. Rammohan Rao

For their unwavering dedication to holistic education in the rural communities of Telangana and inspiring new generations of empathetic leaders. by Shri T. Harish Rao, Minister for Finance, Health, Medical & Family Welfare, Govt. of Telangana

Shrimati Vandita Rao grew up in Hyderabad, learning how to balance society’s conventional expectations with her own entrepreneurial instincts from an early age. A few hundred kilometres away, Shri E. Rammohan Rao had established himself as a revolutionary, raising his voice against divisive politics and discrimination, no matter his personal circumstance. Together, they became a force to reckon with.

Uniting decades of life experience, they joined Rural Development Foundation (RDF), a non-profit organisation that would effect real transformation in the lives of countless individuals and communities.

A chance suggestion to turn an ancestral home into a school led to the birth of RDF in 1996. RDF became the instrument through which Vandita and Rammohan would create a more just and empathetic world. Given their personal leanings towards education and equality, and a resolve to educate the girl child, high quality holistic education became the bedrock on which RDF stands even today.

A natural educator, Vandita designed RDF’s earliest ‘learn by play’ curriculum, collaborating with the Andhra Mahila Sabha to upskill rural teachers. She built a team of committed educators, enabling first generation teachers to stand tall despite trying circumstances. A true champion of teaching holistically, and with a strong focus on primary education, Vandita encouraged a syllabus that was immersed in nature, creating classrooms of nurturers and protectors of the land.

Rammohan is a fearless advocate for social justice and under his guidance, RDF integrated sports and social awareness into the curriculum. Today, RDF students are at the top of their game in every sports event from track events to yoga and even on the Olympics stage. His conviction that the playing field should be levelled for all led to RDF ensuring that no family is paying beyond their means. Rammohan took charge of bringing in funding so that parents pay subsidised fees, and at the same time RDF doesn’t compromise on the facilities it offers the students.

Through their leadership and vision, Vandita and Rammohan have also opened doors to the wider world for their students, breaking down barriers based on caste and class. RDF’s alumni of over 2,000 have made the journey out of poverty and financially support their families today. They are India’s future leaders, who not only respect our rich cultural heritage but are also ready to steer the country into the future as civic-minded responsible citizens. 

The first school in Kalleda led to more schools in Matendla, Redlawada, Rollakal and a junior college in Kalleda – some of the more impoverished parts of Telangana. Even in the face of much resistance and upper caste bias, RDF remains a visionary foundation that lives by its motto to ‘Educate, Engage and Empower’. Shrimati Vandita Rao and Shri E. Rammohan Rao are an inspiration to us all, and a reminder of the transformative power of education and social activism. The Trustees of the Yudhvir Foundation are proud to honour them with this award. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition and we wish their legacy continues for generations to come.