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Thursday, October 2, 2014

University Leadership Training helps to discover my potentials

University Leadership Training Good or Bad ?

Discovering the Leader in Me (Article sent by a Student- 2013 Batch)

Leadership can have a broad meaning. The ability to take charge of a group of people, the skill of handling people or the will-power to take the responsibility when things gone wrong can be considered as leadership. 

Do we have the leadership skills ? Most of the Sri Lankans may not have the leadership gene in their pool. Situation among school children and university students is even worse. We are a backward nation lacking necessary courage to take risks, admit our mistakes and develop our personalities. Something had to be done. We had to treat the root-course; our youth. "Leadership and Positive Attitudes Development Program for University Students" aka "Leadership Program" was introduced as a cure for the above problem.

I was privileged to have selected for the Leadership Program 'cause I was selected for the university entrance based on the advanced level examination 2012. When the Leadership Program was first introduced for the students of A/L batch 2010, most of the people looked it with suspicion. I myself shared the same attitude towards it. The main reason for the lack of warm welcome was that the program was to be conducted in military camps with the help of military instructors and in military style disciplined environment. Although Sri Lankan military was venerated for their service in defeating the Tamil Tiger Terrorists, civil society preferred to keep a safe distance from them. 
No parent was willing to send their children to attend to this so called military training. The first batch was entered before starting universities in 2011. Attendance was made virtually compulsory and the only way out is to give a medical report saying he/she is unfit for training. First batch had to undergo 21 days of training for which the feedback of students was mixed. Students were not liked to have stressful physical training and drill practices but they have liked other activities and lectures.

Now two programs passed in two years. The content of the program was gradually improved. Ministry of Higher Education and the military learned their lessons so I was hoping for a better program than the first two. I was selected to the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Gannoruwa, Peradeniya. 
I've never been inside an army camp before for an extended period of time so I was really nervous. Being away from home was not an issue for me but with all the reassurances, the feeling of loneliness burned me from inside out.

Gannoruwa army camp was neat and tidy. The registration process went smoothly. We were assigned billets for accommodation. There were 259 students, two third of them were girls. Students were divided in to two companies; Alpha and Bravo. Each company was subdivided again in to four platoons and each platoon was divided into three sections for ease of control.

We had to adapt to rigorous time table. We woke up at about 4.00 AM in the morning. Activities ranging from physical training, drill practice, lectures, sport activities and aesthetic session were scheduled from dawn to midnight. We had less than four hours of sleep per day for the entire three week period.

It is true to say that I've learned almost all the things on how to be a more organized and structured person. Our physical, mental and social skills were gradually improved. We were taught the best practice in even doing the basic day to day chores ranging from arranging beds to cleaning the lavatory. Dining room etiquette, how to dress properly and even how to greet a person were taught.

The best thing I got from this training program is the way how to be a good leader as well as how to be a good follower. We may not be a leader always. Sometimes we have to obey someone and do the duties. I befriended with many people coming from all over the country from different economic or social backgrounds and from different races and religions. 
Since we wore the same type of dress and we were given the same training, accommodation and food, a sense of harmony and equalism were prevailed among us. All of the students regardless of the gender were bonded like a band of brothers.

We have extended our bond even to the officers and other staff of the Gannoruwa army camp. They were like our brothers and sisters. Although they addressed us "Mister" and "Miss", I'm sure in their hearts they have felt us like their own kith and kin. Their level of tolerance was admirable. To tell the truth, we were always not in our best behavior but the staff tolerated it even they got scolded by their superiors.

Our safety was the priority of the officers and other staff. All the physical activities were bearable and our safety was assured. We we not forced to undergo even a single day of physical training or drill practices. Anyone can fallout from the above activities if they are not fit. Medical facilities were readily available at the camp. Kandy and Peradeniya hospitals were on full alert for any serious medical conditions and we were to be received VIP treatments there.

The most heartbreaking thing happened to us at the camp was the sudden demise of our friend, Lahiru Sandaruwan. He had undiscovered medical condition which lead to his death. We we really shocked and tormented but faced that grave situation with courage. We were crying at our hearts but putting a brave face in the midst of this situation. I can assure you that this training was not responsible of causing Lahiru's death. We did religious activities for him and even went to his house to pay him our last respect.

Last but not least, it is my duty to appreciate the leadership given by the commandant of the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering - Gannoruwa, Lieutenant Colonel S.A.Pathirana. He was like a father to us. We were always safe in his hands. He steered the leadership course in the midst of grate obstacles and hardships. His leadership qualities were highlighted when Lahiru Sandaruwan passed away in the middle of the training program. The way he handled that crisis alone can be a guidebook for a future leader.

Everything was a challenge to me. Waking up in the early morning, ice-cold showers, sleeping in a dormitory, speaking in front of a large crowd, drill practice,  and mostly handling more than thirty unruly students when I got the chance to be the leader of the platoon for a day. When I look back, I can't even believe I've done all those things.

In conclusion, I may say that this leadership program has changed me for good. It revealed a hidden part of myself. Now I can endure the hardships of life, face challenges, confront my fears and be more structured person. This is one of the best things ever happened to me. I recommend this training course to every prospective university student. If you get the chance to participate in the leadership program, take it because it may be the turning point in your whole life.

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