Leadership Training for University Students has More Good than Bad
Posted on May 24th, 2011

Geoff Wickrema Kotte

At last the university system of Sri Lanka is moving in the right direction. The proposed leadership training session for all university students is a very timely and farsighted concept that must be implemented as soon as possible. It has immense benefits for the nation, future professionals and for the society at large. The following are some of these benefits. There are many other benefits in addition to these that certainly warrant an early implementation.

1. Facilities at military bases can be used for the purpose with very little additional capital investments or huge recurrent expenditure. All the required facilities and most of the expertise are already there. Large-scale gathering of university students across faculties and universities is a positive and good move. At the moment, the only real consistent movement that spans across faculties and universities is the disruptive heavily politicised union movement. By building friendships before the university courses begin gives a head start for good collective movements at the expense of disallowing disruptive elements an early start.

2. Leadership, taking instructions and following them for a higher purpose and teamwork are some of the key social skills university graduates lack. This lacking is very visible when it comes to getting jobs. Professionals coming out of professional bodies with years of apprenticeship experience are unreachably ahead of university graduates due to their developed social skills and discipline. Those who have participated in boot camps during school days or thereafter would know how beneficial such experiences are for self-confidence, team building and to explore various social issues in a safe and secure environment. Leadership development for business leaders is a growing industry. It is a blessing for undergraduates to have such an opportunity free of charge. Four weeks would be sufficient to inculcate leadership skills.

3. Discipline is totally lacking in government universities. It is not practical to station a police post inside every university. Nor is it practical to bring police to quell violence within the university, within its hostels and fights with villagers. Sadly these are too common. Instead an initial induction into an environment of discipline and obeying rules will correct most of these bad behaviours. Apart from a few semi-government schools and a very few government schools, others donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t give discipline a high priority. As a result the university system gets loaded with a number of totally undisciplined students. They can be subtly disciplined in an environment of self-development and strict discipline.

4. Another connected issue is the lack of self-initiative of university students. This is another big drawback when they go to find jobs. Lack of self-initiative has huge adverse effects on all students even during their university stay. A few subversives make good use of this and keep all the others under their spell. They conduct themselves as kings and some donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t even plan to complete their university studies as they want to prolong their reign! If undergraduates are equipped with self initiative, violence in universities will not be so bad.

5. Very competitive study demands leave no room for physical exercises for most students. This habit continues into their adult lives. Those who get physical work also end up couch potatoes once they establish in white collar jobs. As a result the nationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s professionals are mostly unhealthy costing billions in lost productivity, life span and in health costs. A disciplined exercise regime can be built into their routines early. Since most university students donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t have the means, interest or the knowledge of a healthy exercise routine, they never give sufficient though to it. A pre university course will be the ideal opportunity for them to cultivate such a regime with enough support.

6. The society must appreciate the armed forces, what they do and their approachability. Demonising the armed forces especially by the educated crowd must end forthwith. However, this cannot happen automatically. By allowing university graduates an opportunity to interact with armed forces personnel develops a strong sense of respect and love towards the heroes of the nation. Most misconceptions floating in the society against armed forces personnel come from a total lack of knowledge and experience. It is very bad for the nation, its good name and for military-civilian coordinated work which are on the increase. Development work, relief operations following natural disasters, elections, etc. call for strong military-civilian coordinated work. These can take place seamlessly if professionals and military personnel have a better understanding of each other and familiarity.

7. This pre-university course does not in any way affect the studentsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ undergraduate studies. It doesnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t affect their English or ICT skills development either. In fact this proposed scheme compliments the development of these skills. Old fashioned thinking of cramming a load of book material is not going to equip professionals in the 21st century.

8. A more dangerous development takes place in universities. Apart from violence and subversion terrorist activities and separatist activities have taken place in universities. Using university facilities, free education and security to advance separatism is rampant in the Tamil-only Jaffna University. Pro-LTTE students killing a Tamil Engineering student at the Peradeniya University in 1997 shocked the nation. In this case the student in concern had relatives who were active in peaceful political work. LTTE mouthpieces that are still active regularly carry news items how undergraduates carryout pro-LTTE activities. These can be deterred by filtering the students through military installations. However, it is discriminatory to target only Tamil students for a pre-university course at military installations. It has benefits for the others as well. Having to undergo sessions at military installations deter terrorist and separatist elements from entering and polluting the free university system. It also gives an opportunity for security personnel to have a first hand interactive experience of any such individuals going through the system. Harbouring anti-security forces attitudes affect Tamil professionals long after leaving university. Almost all leading Tamil terrorist activists in the Diaspora are the beneficiaries of free education in Sri Lanka. Had they the chance to mingle with members of the security forces, they would not harbour so much baseless hatred.

9. Most Sri Lankans have absolutely no problem going through these sessions. They find it beneficial and some may even meet their long lost friends! It a few that is living in self demarcated imaginary worlds of anti-Sri Lankan enclaves that have problems with this proposed plan. Deterring them from the taxpayer funded university system is a victory in itself. On the other hand wasting taxpayer money on them is a national crime. However, some of them may go through the process and find how amazing it is. It will be a pleasant life changing event for them.

10. Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland are three highly developed and disciplined nations. Their professionals are some of the best in the world. They have overcome so many problems that historically haunted their neighbouring nations. One big reason for this peaceful and disciplined prosperity, that is a matter of national pride, is their very strict mandatory military service for all youth. These programs run for over 12 months. Although that is a long call for Sri Lanka, at least its professionals should undergo a shorter period of acquaintance with military installations, selective non-combat training and military personnel. If young men and women of these highly developed and disciplined countries can spare 12 months for military training, there is no valid reason why Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s undergraduates receiving free education canƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t go through a leadership training session for a few weeks at military installations. This parasitic attitude needs to change.

11. These sessions can also be used to educate these young adults on various other pertinent issues affecting the youth that are not adequately addressed at school, at home or elsewhere. It costs nothing as facilities and opportunities are already there and it does not take away their study time. Surprisingly a large number of young adults lack clear knowledge of many things all adults must know.

12. Commitment must be obtained from the beneficiaries of taxpayer education. They must serve the nation to give back what they got. Committing just three weeks of their lives for a worthy course like this is a good start for the millions of rupees worth education they are getting.

Given all these benefits and many more, this proposed plan must be implemented before criticising it. If it proves bad in the long term, it can be scrapped. If not, it must be expanded to include other youth who are not so lucky to have tertiary education at the expense of taxpayers. It is certainly a step in the right direction. There are those pessimists and naysayers who criticise anything that is new. Results of implementing their outdated views can be seen everywhere in the university system. Trying to make a compromise between English and ICT education and the leadership program is another foolish attempt to disrupt this program. All three must happen plus their undergraduate study for these young men and women to be productive. These are not mutually exclusive ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” one can happen with the others.

I thank the minister of higher education for implementing this long due requirement. I know the university life of my children who will enter the university system soon will be a pleasant and rewarding one. They will not come out of the system with hate, jealousy and naivety filled in their heads; instead they will be capable leaders fluent in English, skilled in computer skills and equipped with knowledge to take on the world. In short, complete in all aspects of education.


Geoff Wickrema


7 Responses to “Leadership Training for University Students has More Good than Bad”

  1. ranjit Says:

    I support every word of your article. I am very happy of this and I thank the Minister and the Government for starting this type of training for university students at last with so much opposition to it. We cannot allow few thugs in universities to take the law in to their hands and bully the innocent students. Children admit to a university to learn not to kill each other or harass others. If you have a problem or an issue there’s always a place to discuss and solve it without breaking the law and disturb the peace.

    JVP’ers never liked this type of things as they were born to create disturbances unneccessarally. They go to the university not to learn but to create violence and disturb other students who are doing well in their studies. Most of the parents sacrifice everything they have to get their children to the top. They go through many hardships to teach their children well and send them to universities for higher education. Children too study hard to get there and be a responsible person to their family and at the same time to the country they were born. This program will be an added qualification and a good one for them to be future leaders in our homeland. When the time goes by they will realize that programs of this calibre will be very helpful in their lives to become a better person.Improving skills and knowledge wont be go waste and it will help them to face the world as decent human beings. It’s a challenge for everyone and I hope the good will prevail and bad will perish. Thanks Geoff.

  2. M.S.MUdali Says:

    Why cannot Mahinda send his partymen to the same? Mervyn Silva and others need a training. If unqualified people in powerful positions, what is the use of the children getting those training? Can those kids ever practice those skills when they get inducted into public life?

    Bribary and corruption have attained as a CULTURAL part of Sri Lankans. Without eradicating Bribary and Corruption, what is the use of this training?

  3. ranjit Says:

    Mudali talk some sense bribery,corruption and Mervin nothing to do with this leadership training topic. If you become a good person by such training it’s good for yourself not for me.So anybody can get training for themselves to be a good disciplined person if he or she has the will.

    The Government is showing the way our duty is to take it or leave it. Somebody should be a teacher and then pupils should follow to be leaders of tomorrow. You people are just complaining and try to make a wrong picture and make an issue for the sake of opposition for everything this Government does. Just give it a try.I think you too need some training mudali. You have the right to oppose anything but not everything.

  4. Chintha Says:

    I agree with Ranjit . This is for the bettrment of the students. The currupted politicians should be taken care of by people. I don’t personally like Merwin, but him getting votes mean he must be doing some good to his voters. But to all the people who thinks there is massive curruption in SL, you have to come outside and see the curruption in the so called West. The difference is the curruption is leagalised. You have “Donate now buttons” in politicians websites and even terrorist organisations can give money to politicians to get them to do what they want.Remember “good terrorists”. Even there is unbelievable curruption in private sector specially in recruitments.

  5. Samson Says:

    Mudali IPKFSon

    That is a dumb argument. No need for everything else to wait until corruption ceases. Politicians sons are a few. But there are millions of other children other than them.

    If you don’t like it don’t send your kids to government uni.s. There are many more in deserving people in waiting.

  6. aabey Says:

    This is a very interesting topic…. we should be polite, & wise when expressing thoughts over these types of arguments.
    Whatever it is… This Training Programme is one of the best solutions for Future Leaders of the Country as well, whether they have any plans to study in Srilanka & then serve another Nation what so ever comes into practice later.
    I agree some one has taken a wise step & it will be surely successful afterwords. at the begining every new steps are facing these types of obstacles.
    So its our duty to support any good thing going to happen in Srilankan soil. Good Luck! Young generation!!

  7. ranjit Says:

    We should not bring politics to our arguments everytime or evry topic. If something good is happening to our peoples and for the country who ever does it we should all appreciate without being opposition to everything. Our country is going foward not backward like those days. We have the right to discuss what ever topic that interest the whole nation. This Government is showing the way to make us better for tomorrow. No other Government has done this much of work in few years like this present Government. Every citizen has the freedom and right to discuss anything face to face with the current leaders or even with the President in a friendly atmosphere to solve any problem by discussions but not by violence or sabotage.

    Let’s give it a try and see the progress and hope we have a better world with a civilized population.

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