Sunday, June 19, 2011

An International School For Scoundrels

The Sunday Leader, 19/06/2011,
Leaders, we have been told are born, not made. The born leaders who come to our mind are: Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Hitler, Churchill and the Rajapaksas. Now we want to make leaders.
The crème de la crème of unemployable graduates
We need ‘leadership trainers’ of all sorts – management gurus from America, just simple Swamijis across the Palk Strait or our own political gurus.  Placards or cut outs of some of them – if approved by relevant authorities can be seen on the streets.
Now leadership training has got into full swing with the Leadership Training Programme for undergrads  but who are the leadership trainers who are now training our undergrads at 28 locations -18 army camps, 2 navy camps, 4 cadet and 4 police training centres. Of the 22,000 undergrads who have qualified to enter universities 12,000 have undergone or are undergoing training at these centres. Ten thousand more are to be trained once the ‘cut off marks’ of the GCE AL exam are released.
Who are the trainers?
The question that arises in the minds of ordinary mortals like us in this paradise isle is where or who are these leadership gurus or trainers who within three weeks are expected to impart leadership qualities to these undergrads that will enable this lotus eating paradise of ours to be transformed into the Miracle of Asia soon. Quite obviously university teachers whose job is to teach undergrads everything required for their degrees are not involved. The underpaid dons are demanding a salary hike which this government says it can’t give but will spend Rs 90 million for this training programme.
Another question that arises is: If university dons are not the management gurus of the undergrads, have the armed services taken to the teaching profession? We should be pardoned for making this guess because all training centres are located in military or police camps. The armed services, we acknowledge, have done a great job in training their personnel well enough to win the war against terrorism but are they competent enough to become leadership trainers?
Crème de la Crème
A Higher Education Ministry spokesman has described the undergraduates chosen as ‘the cream of the cream’ – crème de la crème – of our youth. They constitute the 5 per cent of students who have entered schools and have qualified to enter universities. Thus the question arises about the qualifications of those ladies and gentlemen who are to conduct this leadership programme to the country’s   crème de la crème. Are the new found dons to these undergrads sergeants, sergeants’ majors or low ranking officers of the services who are usually the trainers of service personnel with perhaps one senior officer as a nominal head?
The undergrads it appears are used as a political football: being kicked around by spokesmen for the Ministry of Higher Education. This crème de la crème is transformed into ‘unemployable Graduates’ lacking in skills and motivation to give leadership, when the ministry wants to justify this training programme.
What ever the qualifications of these instructors may be no one in the armed services can teach undergrads subjects pertaining to their curriculum, according to the Higher Education Act. Neither the Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Defence nor any other ministry has the legal authority to formulate and implement a programme for courses of study of university students. Such programmes come under the academic authorities of universities. This is stated in a document of the Friday Forum signed by former Under Secretary General Jayantha Dhanapala and former University Vice Chancellor and veteran law faculty don Savithri Gunasekera.
So far the public has been left unaware of the authority responsible for the formation of the curriculum for these courses. However, a prominent photograph of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on the cover of the Study Guide suggests that the Ministry of Defence is behind the project.
Those who have had some access into the curriculum for the undergrads say that it is a military training with emphasis on regimentation and unquestioning obedience contrary to the core values of democracy. The content of the module on history and national heritage focuses exclusively on cultural symbols of the majority community and none or little on other communities.
The Supreme Court has rejected all petitions filed against this project without giving reasons.
The Ministry of Higher Education which has taken on the  job of speaking up for it has not  given the curriculum vitae  of the  ‘leadership trainers’ or the contents of the curriculum and  not spoken about the legal authority  of the ministry or the University Grants Commission to formulate and implement courses of study.
Spokesmen have scoffed off allegations that this involves military training and declared that it mainly involves teaching of subjects like English and IT.
However sources say that there are instances where students are given the freedom to exercise their judgement. For example in a group exercise on their choice of world leaders, the following names have been given: Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dutugemunu, Anagarika Dharmapala, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Puran Appu and Ranasinghe Premadasa.
Indeed a very wide ranging list of political personalities to choose from. The undergrads have been provided with a grand opportunity to choose the name if they want to be recognised as future leaders of the Miracle of Asia.
This concept of leadership training is indeed something vital for the progress of the nation. We lack in leadership qualities at the highest level. Take even the Sri Lanka Cricket Board which once guided our cricket team to win the World Cup. The Cricket Board constructed two stadia in the back of beyond and left the once richest sports organisation bankrupt.
In every sphere of activity we need leadership training particularly in politics, some politicians exhibiting outstanding qualities like tying up uncooperative officials to trees.
We suggest such a permanent school – a School for Scoundrels. We could be world leaders in this field too.