The case of leadership training for principals

Leadership Training for school principals

The education ministry has decided to suspend the leadership training program for principals. This is due to the very recent deaths of one of the participants to the programme. Education minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam instructed the education ministry to do as such following the death of the principal of the Ambalantota Suchi National School, Rohini Kumari Attapattu. What could be the possible cause of her death?

As the news reports, the principal has met with the accident while trying to climb on a rope at the Wayamba Teacher Training Centre in Wariyapola, Kurunegala. She has fallen during her attempt and sustained serious injuries. She later gave in to the injuries while being transferred to National Hospital Colombo.

Should principals be climbing ropes?

The first reported death following the leadership training programme for principals was back in June 2013. W.A.S. Wickramasinghe, Principal of Raddolugama Pangngananda Madya Maha Vidyalaya died after suffering a heart attack while undergoing the ‘leadership training’ at the Rantambe Cadet camp.

According to Joseph Stalin, the president of the Ceylon Teacher’s Union, the military-based leadership program for principals is totally useless for the education system and it must be ceased. Regardless of strong antagonism from the Ceylon Teacher’s Union, the education ministry continued to perform the programme for principals all over the country.

Majority of the principals who attend the programme are in their late 40’s and 50’s. During this training period, a principal receives the rank of colonel. This is of utmost importance in comparison to the first rank acknowledged while undergoing the leadership programme, Cadet Officer. In the Sri Lankan Army the rank of colonel is just below the rank of brigadier. Only a principal with a certain level of expertise and seniority would be decorated with this prestigious rank. Taking these points into account, it can be stated that minimum age requirement to be qualified to enter the leadership training is forty years of age.

The need for a better sense of duty of care

One may question as to how relevant these programmes are in improving leadership qualities of a principal. Simply what benefit does it have for a principal in climbing a rope? The fact remains that military training incorporated to such leadership programmes is not the brightest idea to encourage leadership qualities. A principal is the administrative head of the school. He/she should be trained to lead the student body and the administration matters not to catch thieves or terrorists.

Leadership Training Program suspended

(Image Courtesy:

After contemplating the applicants’ age, they must be subjected to a strict medical examination prior to being sent off to a military camp for training under under sultry weather and harsh physical conditions. With no knowledge of how flexible the body would be in such situations, a principal who has dedicated their life to nothing but teaching is expected to perform activities almost to that of a soldier. Clearly, a better sense of duty of care is needed.

Understanding the full picture

If we take a closer look, both the deaths have taken place due to the differences in their fitness capacities. Activities performed at these so-called camps were indeed above the threshold levels of what their bodies could endure. Inclusion of a P.T test followed by a full medical report may not be a bad idea here. However such leadership programmes are conducted at the school level for student bodies such as Prefect guilds, Cadets and scouts. These follow the approach of building a stronger, charismatic future generation who could develop better leadership qualities among themselves.

Leadership Training Programe

A leadership training program held for students of University of Colombo (Image Courtesy: University of Colombo)

The fact that as the principal of a school, it is an essential requirement to possess an adequate knowledge on the given areas under the leadership training. Particularly before signing of a documentation of approval prior to sending off the students to a military camp. On that context, it is probably favourable that a principal is given an insight of how a definite leadership programme is performed. Hence, the experience could be put into practice for the benefit of the children.

When the principals have a convinced view regarding the process and consequences of such leadership programmes, it would be easier to arrive at decisions related to the well-being of own students under similar situations.


With the completion of each leadership programme, the respective principals would be granted military rankings. How practical is this scenario? This is associated with benefits such as recognition of oneself, military exposure and possibly physical fitness. On the other hand, it would be mandatory to salute any military officer above their rank.

Even though its just an ‘ honourable title’ they are given equal importance to that of an officer who enters the army as a volunteer officer. From the instance they receive the honour title, the principal is bound to maintain good order and discipline. This affects the integrity associated with the post of a principal which is honoured equally by everyone and should be second to none.

Meeting the required standards

A gentleman has lost his beloved wife. Four children have lost their mother at a time they needed her so much. Can this loss ever be recovered? No, her life cannot be recovered. But authorities can certainly prevent such unfortunate incidents in the near future by meeting the required standards.

Its not like trying to make the school uniform more practical. Backup facilities, first aids, camps with proper equipment that ensure the participants’ safety are needed. But most importantly, direct hospital access along with an acceptable number of ambulances for emergencies are areas that need to be improved in order to guarantee a safe experience at a leadership training programme.


Gimhani Hirunika



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