The role of leadership in addressing school violence : a case study of two South African schools.
Makhasane, Sekitla Daniel.
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This study sought to understand the role of leadership in addressing school violence in the context of two South African high schools. School violence is a stumbling block to proper functioning of South African schools. Leadership is regarded as essential for the success or failure of schools. This study was a multiple case of two schools which was couched within the interpretivist paradigm. This paradigm was suitable because it allowed me to study and understand multiple interpretations which the participants attached to the dynamics of violence and their understanding of how leadership tackled school violence. The study adopted qualitative methods of data generation which included document analysis, observation and interviews. For the interviews, a purposive sampling of the participants was adopted. Informed by distributed leadership theory which is based on the assumption that there are multiple leaders in a school, I selected as participants, the principals, the deputy principals, the Heads of Department, teachers and learners. The study was informed by a three pronged framework involving distributed leadership theory, social learning theory and ecosystemic theory. Distributed leadership theory was used to explain the findings on how leadership practices influence school violence. The dynamics of violence were explained through the lens of social and systemic theories. The findings suggest that school violence is a complex, multi-dimensional and dynamic phenomenon. The insights into the dynamics of violence revealed that teachers and learners in the two schools experienced different forms of violence ranging from serious incidents such as physical violence to mild forms like verbal violence. The dynamics also included causes of violence which it was found emanated from different sources. Such sources included, inter alia, learners’ peers, parents and socio-economic factors. With regard to variation and gravity of violence between the two participant schools, it was found that some forms of violence were high in one school while they were low in another school. The last aspect of the dynamics of violence which emerged from this study was relationships within and between forms of violence. The findings showed, for instance, that there was relationship between learner-on-teacher and teacher-on-learner violence because some learners reacted violently to teachers in response to teachers’ violent acts against such learners. This study found that the manner in which the dynamics of violence were addressed in the two schools generally illustrated a dearth of leadership. As a result, teachers were not succeeding in their efforts of tackling violence. Some initiatives taken to address violence tended to be targeted at managing violence. However, some management approaches, such as administering corporal punishment, were also violence and, therefore, had the potential to promote violence instead of reducing it. The study also shows that there were few teachers who exercised leadership and as such some learners did change their violent behaviour. However, the efforts of such teachers were isolated and not co-ordinated hence, the impact of their leadership was limited. I, therefore, argue that leadership is crucial for the reduction of school violence. Violence cannot be reduced if teachers and learners do not exercise leadership.