29 September, 2020

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Leadership Training, Student Orientation & Ragging In Sri Lankan Universities

By Kumudu Kusum Kumara

Dr. Kumudu Kusum Kumara

Dr. Kumudu Kusum Kumara

New comers to the university need orientation for several reasons. Most of our students come from rural areas and the university life is a new environment for them geographically, socially and academically. As common to humans they need to be oriented to the new environments to make the transition to new life.

Originally Sri Lankan universities had orientation courses in the universities. The leadership programs could have been held in army camps to avoid ragging of newcomers by the seniors. Unlike the university an army camp has residential facilities to conduct a program of this nature for a large number. Students, the majority of whom come from rural areas, may see leadership training as an additional qualification to compete in the job market in addition to the adventure it offers. They may also appreciate the opportunity for being able to make friends out of a peer group.

However, the orientation would be best if it takes place in the new environment one is relocated to. In that sense an external location is not the best place to have this program. It all depends on what is the key interest in organizing the orientation.

The idea of an orientation program is to get the new comers to make the transition from being an outsider to become part of the University community to the extent that they will be able to continue their educational activities successfully in an environment conducive. Internationally it is the practice to have such orientation programs in the university itself and in the city in which it is located.

Ragging

While in the Sri Lankan universities there could be the problem of seniors interfering in such activities we have to find a solution that. It is said that this is what gave rise to the idea of a leadership program outside the university.

However, even though students have undergone the leadership training program once they come to the University they are still being subjected to ragging. It has come to a point where now first year students rag first year students.

Ragging has not been prevented or stopped because the leadership program was given outside the university. Even though students who come to the University come with the leadership training they are subjected to ragging by the seniors. Secondly it is reported that first year students who are in the University hostels are used by senior students to rag the first year students who are in the hostels and who are day scholars.

The domination of the first years by the seniors is so severe, any student who would try and stand up to them will be subjected to severe forms of harassment.

We must have orientation programs. I think an orientation program should be developed by the teachers of the faculties. University lecturers should prepare an orientation program collectively taking into consideration the academic and practical needs of the new students who come to Universities.

That could include some of the aspects which are already there in the leadership programs. Any physical training given to first year students should be voluntary based on their willingness to participate and not compulsory. But the academic aspects should be made compulsory because they have come to do academic work. That could include practical aspects like time management. The idea is that what we would want to teach university students is how to develop self- discipline and not regimentation or military type discipline. It is a time for young people to grow up to be mature and responsible adults who will academically excel in their work and be able to be innovative in thinking.

Now there is an idea that education should prepare undergraduates for employment and therefore their learning should be practically oriented.

This notion has also been now added to the earlier idea of academic training. There is no harm in adding but we must have a clear idea of what we mean by practical training which remains to be developed. Here, we should not forget that even teaching subjects in humanities and social sciences involve learning analytical reasoning skills, better critical thinking, the ability to innovate and be creative, effective oral communication, and writing etc. all of which have practical value in the world of work as well.

The orientation program, as I said earlier, should facilitate the students’ transition to university life.

It should be an occasion for them to meet other first year students, build a sense of community and friends, connect with and begin to feel at home in the university environment and meet with the academic departments to choose their first year courses and organise their new life in the university.

Here the senior students could be involved under the guidance of academic counselors to run a program borne by university lecturers who are the real academic leaders in the university. Seniors should be encouraged to develop a welcome ceremony for the newcomers where the latter are accepted into the community.

That has to be done in a kind of reconciliatory way of mutual acceptance rather than seniors imposing their authority on the juniors.

The overall orientation program should be developed by the academics in the Faculty where they take leadership into their hands guiding the seniors to welcome the juniors under their strict supervision eliminating any form of ragging and violence in the process.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    I think Ragging should be stopped once and for all, and also the seniors should be educated to respect the juniors not to harass them. What the point of being a senior student if they are unable to guide the new comers. I just can not believe the educated students who go to the universities have to do down the level of harassment and harming another student, which is a very pathetic state of affairs in our university system. We have such wonderful universities and good lecturers and an atmosphere for free education and its such a shame that parents who are so worried about their children’s safety that they have to send them to private universities solely because of this horrible ragging that is allowed in the system. Students who are ragging should be expelled from the universities this way they will learn to respect other students and carry out their education in harmony. A proper system should be implemented to remove students who create havoc in the universities. Because majority of children wants to study get qualified and leave the universities but some of the students wants to live in the universities all their life without passing the final exam which should not be allowed.

  • 0
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    A very timely topic that should receive the attention of all citizens of the country. We saw how a young and upcoming girl committed suicide apparently due to ragging. I directly blame the University Administration for this type of losses the country has to bear.

    This reminds me of a few years back experience I went through, when my son entered the University in a foreign country. On the day my son was informed of to come to the University, my family with a young girl(my daughter) drove(my son was on the driving seat)and were stopped at the gate by a few of the young boys and girls wearing green Ts and badges. One person came up to the driving side and asked who is the new entrant and my son immediately identified. We were terrified as to what was going to happen having had experience in my country. The young man identified as the Senior Vice President of the Student Association and wanted to park the vehicle on a side until a parking space is shown by another student member whom he said is wearing a red color Ts. When we parked, a few others in while Ts came to us an unloaded all the bags plus the computer and said all that would would be delivered to his assigned room No. 302. We were also instructed to get our registration done at the room No. 115. When we went there, still guessing what was in stock, another batch of students went through all the papers and did the registration and directed us to take the stairway or the elevator to the 3rd floor and go to room No. 302. To our surprise, all the baggage and the computer belonging to my son were in the room. After a while another two students (members of the Student Association) came into the room and explained all amenities provided and shown the toilet facilities too. Also we were informed that there will be “Welcome Party” at 7.30 p.m and if we as parents wished to participate, three more passes were issued to us. Having being conscious of “no problems” would occur, we too attended the “Welcome Party”; and it was beyond our imagination. First speech was by the President of the Student Association followed by the Vice Chancellor. After that sing song and dancing followed and we too were invited. Refreshments were freely made available. We departed with a big relief and my wife teared with happiness. We did not forget to look for that Student President and thank him for giving us that great opportunity. He said: Have a nice trip back. Your son is our brother from now onwards”.

    Why can’t we have that “Welcome” to our students here in Sri Lanka? I blame, (having that experience) the University Administration for not engaging with the Students in the “Management” of daily routines of the institution. Get them INVOLVED and show them they are a RECOGNIZED LINK of the Institution. That is the CULTURE we have to introduce to these institutions of higher learning.

  • 0
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    Continued…. I forgot to mention how my son did in the University. During his 3rd year, he was elected to be the Vice President of the Student Association and was placed in charge of the Committee that was handling all matters pertaining to the “Foreign Student Placements & Exchange Programme” and he held that position until the end of his studies. Today he is holding a very “Honourable” and a “Prestigious” position in the the Law Enforcement branch of the country and he is a ten year veteran of that unit.

    I wrote this brief note not only in appreciation of my son’s work life but also to give it as an example to our sons and daughters of Sri Lanka.

    Please change this present stinking “CULTURE” and I know only you can DO IT Please do it. Thank you.

  • 3
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    Kumudu

    Of course, the so called leadership training was a faintly disguised attempt at “politics by other means” by the authoritarian Rajapaksa regime and such indoctrination should have no place in a society striving to become open and free.

    It goes without saying, it is incumbent upon any university worthy of its name to provide an orientation program to the incoming students to assist them in settling into their new academic and social environment. Again it’s obvious it is the university community – the teachers and students – who should design such orientation programs. And they should be designed and delivered in a way that would make the new students feel less socially isolated, but more confident and skillful in handling the new challenges. Though this would address the issue of ragging to a certain extent, unfortunately it will not make the problem go away.

    For ragging seems to be rooted in the skewed reality we call the “human condition.” When new people enter an established social space, not only the newcomers but also the inhabitants feel threatened and disoriented. There is an urgent need to pounce on the “intruding hordes” and assimilate them into the prevailing pecking order and restore the power structure. That is why even in advanced democracies of the west ragging still goes on in universities, schools, military, etc. Despite emphasis on human rights and personal freedom, and a widespread condemnation of any form of sexual abuse, it is not uncommon to hear stories of rape and other brutalities committed by seniors on freshers during “hazing,” as ragging is called in western societies.

    So at best what we can hope to achieve is to manage the problem of ragging better through education and awareness, and help the new students face up to the challenges they face when they enter our universities by providing them with effective orientation programs and counselling.

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