May 23, Colombo: Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees today inaugurated the first ever program on leadership training and enhancement of positive attitudes for students selected for university admissions.
The national programme is launched by the Higher Education Ministry with the coordination of Defence Ministry in a bid to build leadership skills and positive attitudes in students entering universities.
The official ceremony held at the Temple Trees was linked through satellite with 28 training camps where the first batch of 10,000 of the 20,000 students participates in the programme. About 3,000 students participated in the main ceremony at the Temple Trees.
The first round of the training programme includes 4,069 male students and 5,931 female students. The second round of training will be held for the remaining 12,000 students.
Addressing the participants the President said the future leaders could be created by this new concept being introduced to the universities.
Pointing out that only the very top five percent of the 400,000 students who take the GCE Advanced Level exam gain admittance to the national universities, the President said this type of a program is essential for the students so that they can receive the training necessary to face future challenges by themselves and dedicate themselves for the future development of the country.
The proposed program came under criticism from the opposition political parties and student unions. They say the government-proposed program is military training although there was no weapons involvement.
The student union affiliated with the Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) filed a petition in the Supreme Court saying the training for university students in military camps is illegal.
The government defends the program provided at a cost of 200 million rupees. It says the program is not a military exercise but a leadership and positive thinking training conducted as a part of the undergraduate orientation program from this year.
The only difference according to the government is the locations where the training is to be conducted. The training program will be held in 18 army, 2 navy, 2 air force, 4 cadet, and 2 police camps, as those are the only centers which have ample infrastructure facilities to hold a mass training programme.
Vice chancellor of the Kothalawela Defence University Major General Milinda Peiris said no military training will be provided under any circumstance to the students during the training period.
The government says those following the programme will have the strength to counter the menacing practice of ragging by the senior students.
Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake speaking at the occasion said after this training programme no new comer will be subjected to any form of ragging at the universities.
Deputy Minister Nandimithra Ekanayaka, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne together with Chancellors and Vice Chancellors of Universities and the Commanders of Security Forcers participated in the event.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)