Phenomenological study of the lived experiences of women primary school principals in Umgungundlovu district.
This study explored the lived experiences of a selected group of women principals in Umgungundlovu district. In South Africa women constitute the majority of the teaching force and yet school principals are predominantly men. Literature showed a number of barriers that prevent women from being in leadership positions. These barriers included social-cultural factors, societal expectations as well as women’s perceptions of themselves potentially being in positions of leadership. An attempt was made to investigate how women principals’ lived experiences could shed light on the reasons for their under-representation in positions of educational leadership. A qualitative phenomenological study was used to generate data guided by two research questions. The data was collected from three women school principals in the Umgungundlovu district and they were interviewed in their natural settings in this case, their schools. The findings of the study revealed that women principals encounter many challenges as they begin their careers as principals as a consequence of resistance from the staff, as well as in their efforts to balance their home and work lives. In order to cope with these demands, the women had to network to make sure they have a support system; collaborating with both staff and learners also assisted in meeting the requirements of their positions. In leading their schools they utilised a caring approach to the staff and the needs of the learners. Their major achievement was being able to work as team. In understanding the lived experiences of these women primary school principals of the UMgungundlovu District, six themes emerged. These themes are: first experiences as initially challenging; work and home conflicting demands; networking as a way of dealing with challenges; the need for spirituality as a way of coping with these challenges; mothering and collaboration as a way of leading.