Mission with a vision | Daily News

Mission with a vision

Gateway College, Negombo

Every generation produces leaders. However visionary leaders such as Head Boy Keynula Alahakoon and Head Girl Shelina Fernando of Gateway College, Negombo, are a rarity. Perfect Prefects features the two heads who give the youth a vision, a purpose and a destiny.

“The Greek leader that I admire the most is Leonidas, King of Sparta. I am amazed by the courage and leadership that he possessed. I am a big fan of the Battle of Thermopylae. The Greek resistance tried to halt Persian progress on land at the narrow pass of Thermopylae. Leonidas marched at the head of 7000 Greek men including 300 Spartans. King Xerxes of Persia had anywhere from 70,000 to 300,000. The Greeks were betrayed. Dismissing the rest of the army, King Leonidas stayed behind with 300 Spartans and 1100 Greeks. It was one of the most famous last stands of history.

Leonidas’ tactics and skills were wonderfully executed during this battle and inflicted heavy losses on the Persians. He selflessly sacrificed himself so that he could buy time for the united Greek forces to form an army to rival the Persians. Before the battle he was offered to surrender his arms by the Persian king because his (Xerxes) army outnumbered the Spartans as if they were tiny fleas. But he simple replied ‘come and get them’. These are bold words in the face of impending doom. He once said – ‘We fight as a single, impenetrable unit. That is the source of our strength. Each Spartan protects the man to his left from thigh to neck with his shield - a single weak spot, and the phalanx shatters!”

I also love the fact that Leonidas sent the bulk of his army away to defend their cities because most of the army consisted of young men with families. Wishing to save the lives of these young men Leonidas gave to each of them a secret dispatch and sent them to the Ephors (The ephors were leaders of ancient Sparta). With his small group of soldiers Leonidas and his men courageously held their ground. His battle tactics were outstanding and he was able to resist the Persian forces till the united Greek force intersected. He died a true hero in the battle and was honored by his men and all of Greece,” explained Alahakoon.

He points out that one thing that annoys him is the fact that some men treat women as sexual objects and do things to make women feel really uncomfortable. A woman can’t walk on a street without been catcalled or whistled at. That is how our society has degenerated. And these are not perpetrated only by grown men but by adolescents as well. And this is particularly alarming because these young boys grow up to become men who in turn will give other adolescents the idea that such behavior is acceptable.

“They gang up and hang out in places and think that what they are doing makes them manly! This is actually far from the truth. These kind of disgraceful notions are very wide spread. It has got to the point that a woman cannot travel alone! I am indignant because I have a sister and mother and even when I am around they get whistled and catcalled. Some people say that it’s just the way the world works and it is not a huge deal. But it is a huge deal because these women suffer for no reason. I believe men should respect the rights of a woman. But these men are shameless and actually make women very fearful. Therefore, I believe that I should stand up for a woman who is getting catcalled. I feel these delinquents are actually quite insecure even though they think they are being cool. I always make sure to nip any such behavior in the bud especially at school and make sure that they know that what they are doing is wrong,” pointed out Alahakoon.

Alahakoon is passionate when it comes to issues concerning Health, especially Mental Health. He states that these days there is just too much of stress exerted on the individual. He adds that depression and many other mental health related disorders have started sky rocketing.

“Some people are narrow-minded and those who suffer from depression may not come out with it because of the fear of being looked down. There needs to be more awareness about this because those with depression suffer because of the stigma. I feel that with regards to mental health there isn’t a lot of mental health help provided in our country in terms of having mental health professionals. I mean sure there may be many private mental health professionals but the government sector lacks a lot of them. But what needs to be understood is that people need mental health professionals especially in the government sector because many of the patients are patients who cannot afford to go to a private counselor,” said Alahakoon.

He laments that it really hurts him to see that there are people who do not get treated because they can’t afford to pay the medical bill. We can’t just let them suffer just because they can’t afford it? It might be true that in some countries the privileged can afford to pay their bills at private hospitals, but there is always a low income class in every country.

“If there could be a change at least in introducing a universal healthcare system I believe would really help lots of people all over the world in terms of health. We also know that some politicians use their own citizens tax money for their own benefits. But what I hope is that at least they’ll use most of that tax money for the betterment of their country,” stated Alahakoon.

Another thing that disgusts him is human trafficking. It Alahakoon to know that at this very moment hundreds and thousands of innocent young women and children are subjected to sex trafficking.

“The International Labor Organization and Walk Free foundation, in partnership with IOM, estimate that there are about 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally, the majority of whom are young women and children. And although leaders in the world are doing their best to try and stop this, it is still happening. What saddens me is the fact that an individual could do these things, exploiting innocent people. In addition to the reported cases there are so many cases that go unreported. Trafficking is done with so much precision, backing and support. I believe that this is one major issue that we should all focus on because these innocent people are subjected to such cruelty,” said Alahakoon.

Head Girl Shelina Fernando rewards people according to merit. For her what matters is how you contribute to the team.

“For example, when working together in a corporation, there will be a large number of employees working under a few leaders. When there is a task that needs to be done, all the employees will be required to contribute. The employees are the people who need to take charge of the entire process and make sure that the deadline will be met. If each and every single employee has that sense of leadership, that spark of leadership within them, they will be able to make the correct decisions during this process without having to consult their line manager or anyone superior. This is something that great leaders should cultivate in others. I believe the job of a great leader is to create leaders in others and inspire others to make decisions, be confident and take responsibility for their actions. If this can be cultivated in every single cluster of people in the world, the world would work so much more efficiently,” explains Fernando.

She points out that whenever she mingles with the real world, she has noticed that people like to do things fast and one of the biggest ways a business could achieve customer satisfaction is by providing their services fast but also efficiently.

“Providing a fast service doesn’t mean that quality is neglected. No, being efficient is all about achieving maximum productivity which means great quality is a must. However, focusing on being efficient together with our competitive nature can make us forget that first and foremost we are humans and that we have to care about others. I think it’s the responsibility of every single leader in the world to see that their people cultivate these traits,” said Fernando.

Fernando shared her experiences when it comes to leadership and how both she and Alahakoon handle the mantle of being Head Prefect. For Fernando leading a team has always been a childhood dream. Making a difference in the lives of those she leads and motivating them to work towards a common goal is something she has desired. She has achieved her dream and is living that dream! She does her best when it comes to school.

“Keynula and I make sure we give the job 100 percent when fulfilling duties and responsibilities. Therefore, whenever we want to go ahead with an idea Keynula and I discuss it with each other. We are very open to suggestion when it comes to the rest of the members of our guild. Keynula is a very understanding leader and his continuous support has helped our prefects’ guild stick together as a team and not fall apart,” stated Fernando.

Alahakoon has similar sentiments when it comes to Fernando’s leadership when he says – ‘I had great support from Shelina throughout out term as head prefects. She was really supportive in the most frustrating of times. She helped me a lot by bearing half of the pressure and did a splendid job as the Head girl. She was a really good partner. She has very good teamwork skills and we always made sure that we both knew what to do,”

Fernando is a huge cricket fan. She grew up understanding the game.

“I am a big follower of the Indian Premier League -my favorite cricket tournament. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a leader I admire a lot mostly because of how calm he is on the field. I have noticed being calm and composed under pressure is something I lack as I tend to panic when things go out of hand, therefore those traits are what I am trying to develop and I admire M. S. Dhoni a lot for that. During the 2019 IPL finals, it was a match against Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. Chennai Super Kings was led by M.S. Dhoni. The last ball was very crucial because Chennai Super King’s first order and middle order batsmen were all out and it was Shardul Thakur, who is known for his bowling skills, facing the last ball. It was a very crucial moment for both teams. While enjoying the thrill of this anxious moment, I noticed about M.S. Dhoni. He was watching from the dugout. And one thing I noticed was that he was very calm. He is humble in victory and gracious in defeat. The reigning champions, Chennai Super Kings lost that night. Mahendra Singh Dhoni accepted the defeat in the best way possible. I admire M.S. Dhoni a lot as a great leader because he has the two most important features I believe a leader should have. He is very analytical when making decisions and takes bold risks which pay off because he takes smart decisions. Secondly, he treats his team mates well and gives them the highest appreciation they should receive. This is why Mahendra Singh Dhoni was able to successfully lead India to great victories during his time as captain,” explained Fernando.

“Therefore, my message is, have a set of principles that you believe in make sure every single action you make, every single decision you take, falls within these principles. Always make sure you do the right thing. When you work with different people, you will know how to approach each one differently because the way each one takes things could be different. So the approach can be different, but make sure you stick to your principles and always do what’s right. I know being calm during a crisis is not as easy as it sounds and most of the time trying to perform under pressure can overwhelm us. However, the best way to solve problems is to be calm and composed,” explained Fernando.