Leading the next generation

Friday, 20 May 2011 01:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Leadership training in military camps for new university entrants has become another point of contention between the Government and other higher education authorities.

The Government plans to begin training university entrants as soon as next Monday in military camps. Given the host of problems that public universities have been embroiled in for the past few years, it is not surprising that authorities feel the need to instil some discipline into the students, preferably before they can be influenced by the disruptive elements within these institutions. However, the question is whether these need to be militarily induced.

In all fairness to the universities, there are some well-recorded instances when students have acted in ways that do not befit their station. Ragging until fellow students are forced to kill themselves or die from injuries inflicted during ragging, subjecting them to intense mental and physical pressure and sometimes being forced to leave the university are well-known circumstances that have happened within recall.

New students are made to feel unwelcome at best and are intimidated for the first few months of their new life – for the unlucky ones this can continue for many months – and woe betide the student who disgruntles a union head. Most average university students have learnt to keep their heads low and focus on their education to ‘survive’ their period in these institutions. For these students, of which there are thousands, the university experience is a pleasurable one that is not demarcated by the horror stories that make headlines.

It is difficult to generalise the state of new students in universities, partly because the students themselves attract or dispel adverse situations. However, the step by the Government to give military leadership training to them is perhaps taking the circumstances too far. If instilling discipline is the aim of this exercise, then surely there are plenty of leadership training programmes that can be conducted during orientation by non-military personnel.

For example, there are many private sector organisations that provide leadership training and can be encouraged to formulate a programme that would be beneficial to university students. These can be given during the first week or so of university life and can be repeated as and when necessary. There can even be a continuous evaluation programme where the student’s behaviour record can be taken into account when he is up for special awards or holding office while part of the university or can even be given as a ‘character certificate’ when he graduates. In fact, these methods would likely be more sustainable and effective than the one-off military training carried out by the Government.

The aim of a degree is more than providing education. It is also to grow the youth in a holistic manner and empower him to understand the most effective contribution he can make towards society. In this politics is one part – universities around the world for centuries have been the hotspots for revolution, new thought and ideas. These are not necessarily negative developments as long as they are dealt with in the right manner. Leadership is more than anything else about leading by example – if the Government wants the students to be disciplined in their actions, then it is up to them to show how.