Friday, June 3, 2011

Ragging by another name

The Island,02/06/2011, by Indrajith Wijayratne

Ragging is a form of physical or psychological harassment one is subjected to involuntarily. The present leadership program forced on new university entrants can be categorized as a form of ragging as most, if not all, participants do not do it voluntarily. Furthermore, since this so called leadership program is mandated by the Ministry of Higher Education, it can be viewed as a form of legalized ragging. In addition, this is not leadership training; it is a disciplining program. The very idea that this program is being conducted by the Army itself points to the fact that it’s a way of instilling discipline on these young students. Instilling discipline by itself is not a bad idea but when done by force, it is questionable if the intended results can be achieved. It is difficult to believe that the Army will treat these students any different than a batch of new army recruits. My experience with university life as a freshman (48 years ago at Peradeniya) is that there are always few bad eggs among the seniors. These are few and far between. The proposed leadership training program makes everyone suffer for the sins of a few. It is true that the situation at our universities during the past few decades has gone from bad to worst. One wonders if this proposed program is the answer. It appears that proposed program has been put in place without too much forethought and planning.

As mentioned before, the term Leadership Training is a misnomer. Contrary to what Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando mentioned in The Island dated May 24, leaders usually are not made but are born. How many world leaders have gone through military type leadership programs? To my knowledge, leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or our own former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamer never had any type of military type of training. But, they achieved their objectives in whatever endeavour they were engaged in. Leaders are not those who make others to follow them by force; they are the ones who guide their followers by example.

This writer has close to 30 years experience teaching at a U.S. university. One writer wrote to The Island a few weeks ago indicating that military enlistment and training is a requirement to enter U.S. universities. This is not true. What is required is enlisting in what is called Selective Service when male citizens or legal resident between the ages of 18 and 25 years. This is for all males—not only for those pursuing university education. All universities offer leadership seminars or workshops for those interested in improving their leadership skills. These are purely voluntary.

On a lighter vein, I feel that this proposed leadership training is given to the wrong segment of the Sri Lankan population. It should be given to the present set of politicians as a start and then to anyone who aspire to enter politics. Successful completion of a leadership training program must be made mandatory before anyone is eligible to seek nomination for a political office. It seems that what current politicians understand as leadership is the use of force including thuggary to achieve their goals. According to a recent news item, a minister in the present government has even formed suicide squad ready to be deployed if and when necessary.

Indrajith Wijayratne, USA